Iran has equipped its Revolutionary Guard’s navy with drones and 1,000-km (600-mile) range missiles as tensions with the United States in the Strait of Hormuz continue to escalate.
The decision came after the US military said it is considering putting armed personnel on commercial ships travelling through the vital strait in what it said aimed to stop Iran’s seizure of several civilian ships.
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Referring to the possible presence of US guards, Iranian armed forces spokesperson Brigadier-General Abolfazl Shekarchi said the region’s countries were fully capable of defending regional waters themselves.
“What do the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean have to do with America? What is your business being here?” Shekarchi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Revolutionary Guard’s Navy Commander Alireza Tangsiri told state TV on Saturday the new missiles had better precision, as well as a longer range.
“The cruise missiles can attack several targets simultaneously and the commands can be altered after takeoff,” Tangsiri noted.
State news agency IRNA said the Revolutionary Guard’s weapons include “various types of drones … and several hundred cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 300 to 1,000km are among the systems and equipment that were added to the capabilities of the Guards’ navy today”.
Since 2019, Iran has seized a series of ships in the strait, the narrow mouth of the Gulf, as part of its efforts to pressure the West over negotiations regarding its collapsed nuclear deal with world powers. Putting US troops on commercial ships could help deter Iran from seizing vessels — or escalate tensions further.
The contemplated move also would represent an extraordinary commitment in the Middle East by US forces as the Pentagon tries to focus on Russia and China.
The US did not even take the step during the so-called “Tanker War”, which culminated with the US Navy and Iran fighting a one-day naval battle in 1988 – the Navy’s largest since World War II.
Already, the US has sent A-10 Thunderbolt II warplanes, F-16 and F-35 fighters, as well as the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, and other warships to the region over Iran’s actions at sea.
The deployment captured Iran’s attention with Tehran saying the region does not need “foreigners” providing security.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched a surprise military drill on disputed islands in the Gulf with swarms of small fast boats, paratroopers and missile units taking part.
About one-fifth of the world’s crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman.
Tehran has usually said detained vessels have committed shipping violations. Some have been released only after foreign countries freed detained Iranian ships.