AP | Feb. 4, 2012, 6:07 AM
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard began military exercises Saturday in the country’s south, the latest show of force after threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for tougher Western sanctions.
Plans for new Iranian naval games in the Persian Gulf off the country’s southern coast have been in the works for weeks. State media announced new maneuvers in southern Iran involving ground forces, but it was not immediately clear whether they were part of the planned naval training missions scheduled for this month or a separate operation.
The latest military maneuvers got under way following stern warnings by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about any possible U.S. or Israeli attacks against Tehran’s nuclear facilities. It also comes after Western forces boosted their naval presence in the Gulf led by the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
Iran officials and lawmakers have repeatedly said that their country would close the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf in retaliation for sanctions that affect Iran’s oil exports. They have as yet made no attempts to disrupt shipping through the waterway, the route for one-fifth of the world’s crude oil, and the U.S. and allies have said they would respond swiftly to any attempts at a blockade.
Last month, Iran’s navy wrapped up 10 days of exercises in the Gulf, but the Revolutionary Guard — which is directly under control of the supreme leader — represents a significantly stronger military force and controls key programs such as missile development. Iranian state media announced the new maneuvers, but gave no further details.
Khamenei, in a speech nationally broadcast on Friday, staked out a hard line after suggestions by Israel that military strikes are an increasing possibility if sanctions fail to rein in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
He pledged to aid any nation or group that challenges Israel and said any military strikes would damage U.S. interests in the Middle East “10 times” more than they would hurt Iran. The comments also may signal that Tehran’s proxy forces — led by Lebanon’s Islamic militant group Hezbollah — could be given the green light to revive attacks on Israel as the showdown between the archfoes intensifies.
The West and its allies fear Iran could use its uranium enrichment labs — which make nuclear fuel — to eventually produce weapons-grade material. Iran insists it only seeks reactors for energy and medical research.
Israel has so far publicly backed the efforts by the U.S. and European Union for tougher sanctions that target Iran’s crucial oil exports. But Israeli leaders have urged even harsher measures and warn that military action remains a clear option despite Western appeals to allow time for the economic pressures and isolation to bear down on Iran.
Iran’s oil minister repeated claims that an EU oil embargo will not cripple Iran’s economy, claiming Saturday that the country already has identified new customers to replace the loss in European sales that accounted for about 18 percent of Iran’s exports.
Rostam Qassemi also reinforced Iran’s warning to Saudi Arabia and other fellow OPEC members against boosting production to offset any potential drop in Tehran’s crude exports, saying the cartel should not be used as a political weapon against a member state.
Although Israel has raised the strongest hints that it is likely to start a military campaign, Khamenei reserved some of his strongest comments for Israel’s key U.S. ally.
“A war itself will damage the U.S. 10 times” more in the region, said Khamenei.
Khamenei claimed Iran, however, could only emerge stronger. “Iran will not withdraw. Then what happens?” asked Khamenei. “In conclusion, the West’s hegemony and threats will be discredited” in the Middle East. “The hegemony of Iran will be promoted. In fact, this will be in our service.”
On Thursday, Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, suggested the world is increasingly ready to consider a military strike if sanctions fail. The head of the country’s strategic affairs ministry, Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon, also suggested Iran’s main military installations are still vulnerable to airstrikes — even as Iran starts up a new uranium enrichment facility deep in a mountainside bunker south of Tehran.
Yaalon’s comments appear to reinforce earlier suggestions by other Israel officials that the window for a possible attack is closing and Israel would need to strike by summer to inflict significant setbacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under standing guidelines.
At Ramstein Air Base in Germany, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said sanctions remain the best approach to pressure Iran. But he told U.S. airmen Friday that Washington keeps “all options on the table and would be prepared to respond if we have to.”
Khamenei answered by repeating Iran’s declarations that it will never roll back its nuclear program, which he had earlier said was now part of the country’s “identity” and a cornerstone of its technological endeavors. On Friday, Iran said it successfully sent a small satellite into orbit in the third such launch in recent years, state media reported.
“From now on, in any place, if any nation or any group confronts the Zionist regime, we will endorse and we will help. We have no fear expressing this,” said Khamenei, using the phrase widely used by Iran’s leader to describe Israel.
Read more: BI
- Iran Begins New Military Exercises in South (foxnews.com)
By Jerry Della Femina July 27th, 2011
Grandpa, I’m so so cold.
But Grandpa, why is it so cold?It’s cold because we have no oil. There isn’t a drop of oil anywhere in this country.
Because drilling for oil in Alaska was bad for the caribou. And drilling for oil offshore sometimes caused an oil spill. And we used up every drop of oil we had.
But couldn’t we have bought the oil from another country?
Yes, but we ran out of money and the Chinese were so mad that we couldn’t pay back the money we owed them that they bought up a lot of the world’s supply of oil for themselves.
But Grandpa, is that when The Supreme Leader Barack Obama made that great speech that I read about in my schoolbooks?
Yes, he was in his best speech-making mood after we lost Israel and the Middle East.
Who could his forget his “Shame on you, Iran, for being not nice” speech at the United Nations. The delegates cheered him for seven minutes and gave him their “Prince of Peace” award. Then he made a brilliant speech blaming the banks, the rich, the oil companies and the car companies for making us dependent on oil and causing global warming.
Grandpa, isn’t that when Obama dissolved our armed forces?
Yes, that was his most famous “What do we need the military for? We’ve won the respect of the Third World by destroying all of our weapons” speech.
Then he flew to Iran, threw his arms around Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said, “I will be your friend if you will be my friend.” Ahmadinejad just giggled and walked away.
Was Obama embarrassed?
No. He dropped to his knees and said, “I never liked Israel either.” Then he sang “All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the Iranian parliament. Actually they laughed until they had tears in their eyes. Sadly, Iran tried to destroy the glory of Obama’s big moment the next day when they dropped a hydrogen bomb on Saudi Arabia. But that didn’t stop Obama. He went to Brazil and made his famous “I’m starting to lose patience with Iran” speech.
Yes. By that time the United Nations had moved out of New York because we were out of oil and re-located to Brazil where it was warmer and more comfortable.
Grandpa, was that in 2016, when he stopped being President and asked to be re-elected for the third time?
Yes, that was a wonderful time for the Liberals, the unions, Democrats and The New York Times. It started with a New York Times front page “news” story titled “Many Want Obama To Stay On.” Then the Times said in an editorial that since it was against the law for Obama to be elected President again, let’s eliminate the title of President and elect him as The Supreme Leader.
Yes, I read all about it in school. That’s when he ended taxes and unemployment in the United States.
Exactly. Since he had convinced everyone that the rich were destroying the country and he had taxed just about every penny he could get out of them, he came up with his “Your Money or Your Life” amendment.
He said, “We are all born equal and there is no reason why we shouldn’t stay equal financially, no matter if one man chooses to work every day of his life and another man chooses to live off the work of the man who works.”
Grandpa, I know the great Obama “We are all our brothers’ keepers” speech, and that’s when he was declared the last President of the United States and the first “Leader of the World.”
Yes. So far we’re the only country to go along with this, and all the other countries have more respect for Costa Rica as a world power than us, but you know how persuasive Obama can be when he opens his mouth. YES HE CAN, YES HE CAN.
But Grandpa, it’s freezing. I’m so so cold.
Well I have a surprise for you. For your 10th birthday your Grandpa just sold everything we have for nine pieces of black-market coal.
Grandpa! Grandpa! Nine pieces of coal—we’re rich!