Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) staged a series of military exercises near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, in Tehran’s largest show of force in recent years. The wargames, named Great Prophet 9, come as neighboring Arab states prepare to spend billions on countering the threats posed by the Islamic Republic.
Iranian state TV aired footage of the exercise showing dozens of IRGC boats raiding a replica U.S. carrier and firing large caliber weapons and ship-to-ship missiles at the vessel. Knowing the formidable presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the region, IRGC commanders often rely on such asymmetric attacks, overwhelming their enemy with swarms of smaller boats. Meanwhile, other sailors practiced shooting down a drone and planting underwater mines, according to the Washington Post. After the trainings, outspokenly anti-western leaders, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani, attended a ceremony to mark the navy’s success.
Revolutionary Guard speedboats assault a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier during large-scale naval drills near on February 25, 2015. (Photo: Fars News Agency)
In conducting the drill near the Strait of Hormuz, Tehran likely sought to display their influence over the critical trading chokepoint. An estimated 30% of all sea traded oil transits through the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest. U.S. leaders worry Iran could close the strategic shipping lane during a future conflict, causing a crisis in world energy markets.
Arab states allied with the U.S. have express similar concerns regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and increasing military influence in the Persian Gulf. With little progress and multiple deadlines missed during P5+1 talks, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE have all sought to bolster their own defenses. Saudi Arabia recently restarted talks with the U.S. to buy $20 billion in ships for its Eastern Fleet, which could include four new frigates and 12 corvettes. Separately, reports also suggest Riyadh is trying to acquire new surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and British-made cruise missiles. The UAE also paid almost $1 billion to establish a station of Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries.