Iran holds air defence drill near Bushehr nuclear plant

Drill comes days after latest round of talks in Vienna to restore Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers ended without an agreement.

In this file photo from October 2020, a missile is launched during a military drill, with the participation of Iran’s air defence units [West Asia News Agency via Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – Iran has held an air defence drill in the vicinity of its southwestern Bushehr nuclear power plant amid ongoing tensions over the country’s nuclear programme.

State media reported that the drill was conducted in the early hours of Monday to the south of the Bushehr province and also over parts of the Persian Gulf.

The drill comes days after the latest round of talks in Vienna to restore Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers which ended with some modest gains but no agreement.

Israel has opposed efforts to revive the 2015 deal, which lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme and has continued to threaten direct military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Nournews, a media outlet close to Iran’s security forces, reported last week that security forces assess there may be a credible possibility Israel would launch an attack in an effort to thwart the talks in Vienna.

On Monday, it quoted Gholamali Rashid, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Khatam al-Anbiya military base, as also mentioning the Vienna talks, and adding that any potential Israeli attack would not be possible without the US giving its approval.

“If such threats are implemented, the Islamic Republic’s armed forces will mount thrashing attacks against all centres, bases, paths, and spaces used to enable the violation, and against the origins of the violation, based on its trained operational plans,” the commander was quoted as saying.

Earlier this month, a loud explosion was heard and the air defence system near Iran’s main nuclear facilities in Natanz was activated. State media said at the time the explosion was caused by a missile fired as part of an air defence drill and there was no hostile object.

The Natanz facilities were the target of two main sabotage attacks, which Iran blamed on Israel, in 2020 and 2021. There was also another sabotage attack in June, also blamed on Israel, on a centrifuge parts assembly workshop in Karaj near capital Tehran.

The seventh round of nuclear talks in Vienna between Iran and the world powers party to the accord the US abandoned in 2018 closed with modest progress on Friday. Talks are expected to resume in the coming days before the end of the current year.

Iran and Western powers have so far been at odds in the talks over which sanctions need to be lifted, and what measures Iran needs to take to scale back down its advancing nuclear programme.

Source: Al Jazeera