The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps holds the main and final stage of massive exercises in the Persian Gulf, launching an “offensive” component in Iran’s defensive strategy for the first time.
The Great Prophet 12 drill entered its final chapter in the general area on Saturday, with IRGC chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari saying “we hope the enemies have more than ever grasped the power of our response.”
“This was a response to allegations made by the enemies who should know that the defense capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran are deterrent, and as the Eminent Leader [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] has said, ‘if they try to hit us once, they will definitely be hit 10 times more’,” Jafari told reporters.
The IRGC Ground Force’s chief Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said the drills take place on a strategic and defensive level proportionate to the enemies’ potential threats.
“For the first time, the drills incorporate an offensive operation in the Islamic Republic’s defensive doctrine,” he said during a press conference on the southern Iranian Qeshm Island.
A commentator says IRGC’s military drill in the Persian Gulf is a strong message to the US and Israel that Iran’s deterrent power can ward off any hostile movement against the country.
“On the operational level, these maneuvers are offensive, meaning should the enemy seek to resort to threat and its implementation, it will prompt us to turn thoroughly aggressive and offensive, and pursue targets deep inside the enemy front,” Pakpour noted.
The goal, the commander said, is to “crystallize a precise and realistic image in the enemy’s mind of our deterrence and defensive equations.”
“The enemy should make allowances in its calculations for the fact that our defense is a combination of defensive and offensive engagement, with more emphasis placed on the offensive side,” he said.
Pakpour said the IRGC Ground Force’s past experience in fighting terrorism, securing borders, and the experience resulting from recent wars has helped shape new defensive doctrines.
The annual exercise enlists the Ground Force’s elite units. They include the rapid response unit, the special forces, commandos, combat and reconnaissance drones, the electronic warfare unit, engineering corps, and the Zolfaqar fast patrol craft.
Various attack, transport, and airdrop helicopters are flown during the event.
According to Tasnim news agency, the Cobra gunships deployed in the last stage have been equipped with enhanced thermal cameras.
The equipment, it said, has been enhanced with laser rangefinder and is capable of tracing and detecting targets in various environmental conditions, including sheer darkness, fog, smoke, and dust.
The drills also included amphibious operation and seizing of bridgeheads along the coastline.
US carrier shows up amid drills
The drills coincided with the return of US aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to the Persian Gulf on Friday after a long absence.
US news agency the Associated Press said the long absence of a carrier could become a standard practice here amid a shake-up of naval operations.
“We are trying to be more operationally unpredictable,” it quoted Lt. Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for US′ Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, as saying.
“Now we’re switching it up because our adversaries are watching closely. We want to be operationally unpredictable to our enemies, but strategically predictable to our partners.”
The Associated Press also claimed that IRGC vessels shadowed the Stennis and its strike group at one point launching rockets away from it and flying a drone nearby.
The US Navy, it said, invited journalists to ride on the nuclear-powered Stennis, whose homeport is Bremerton, Washington, as it transited the Strait of Hormuz.
‘Iran acting within maritime laws’
In response to reports about Iranian vessels approaching the US carrier in the Persian Gulf, a senior Iranian commander said the operation had been lawful and nothing out of the ordinary.
“Basically, whenever a vessel enters the Persian Gulf region, because it passes through the Strait of Hormuz and our territorial waters, according to maritime conventions, its arrival and even departure time, nationality, mission and destination are inquired and ascertained,” Managing Director of Iranian Defense Ministry’s Marine Industries Organization Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari said.
He said this reconnaissance mission is carried out through Iranian vessels approaching vessels entering the Persian Gulf and “this is conducted according to diplomatic principles and international military conventions in world waterways and is by no means anything new.”
Rastegari said foreign median reports “exaggerating” such a process are part of the Iranophobia campaign.
The Iranian commander also dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had followed the US carrier and rockets were fired towards it.
He stressed that Iran had internationally declared its military exercise zone more than a week before the drills started and that any shots fired or drones and copters flown were part of the the Great Prophet 12 maneuvers and had had “nothing to do with the US aircraft carrier” which was sailing close to the site of the drills.
Despite being so narrow and within the territorial waters of those two nations, the strait is viewed as an international transit route through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes.
Tensions have been high since President Donald Trump’s May withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal and his threat to bring the Islamic Republic’s oil exports down to zero.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly warned any attempt to stop Iran’s export of crude oil could see it close off the strait.
Pakpour on Friday asserted that the IRGC is fully prepared to preserve the country’s sovereignty and stand in the face of “all forms of conspiracy”.