Iran has started carrying out naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, amid heightened tensions with the Trump Administration, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday. The timing of the annual drills have apparently been moved up as the leadership of both sides exchange angry rhetoric of war. “The U.S. believes the exercises ‘fully started’ Thursday, one defense official said, and could continue until August 6 or 7,” one U.S. defense official said.
The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said possibly more than 100 Iranian naval vessels were involved in the drills, including small boats. A second official confirmed the likelihood of the drill being wrapped up this week.
A day before the start of the naval exercise, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif taunted the U.S. defence forces which maintains a presence in international waters. Zarif said, US Navy can’t seem to find its way around our waters. Perhaps because it hasn’t figured out its name: Persian Gulf, as it’s been called for 2,000 yrs longer than U.S. has existed.”
US Navy can’t seem to find its way around our waters. Perhaps because it hasn’t figured out its name: Persian Gulf, as it's been called for 2,000 yrs longer than US has existed. Or maybe it doesn't know what it's doing in our backyard, 7,000 miles from home. pic.twitter.com/g05yqSTisi
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 3, 2018
The Haaretz reported that U.S. military’s Central Command confirmed it has seen an increase in Iranian naval activity, including in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have threatened to block. “We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, the chief spokesman at Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East.
The timing of the drills is a message to Washington, which is intensifying its economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran. The Trump Administration has launched a global effort to get countries to reduce and eventually stop importing Iranian crude oil by the end of this year.
Iran’s currency plumbed to new depths this week ahead of August 7, when Washington is due to re-impose the first lot of sanctions following Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.