The Iranian government has decided to move forward with its annual war exercises, despite mounting tensions between Iran and the United States. The U.S. is deploying forces to several bodies of water surrounding Iran, including the Strait of Hormuz, in exercises to train the Iranian military’s response to piracy and terrorism, according to Reuters. This follows an incident last month involving a US Destroyer and four Iranian crafts, crewed by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in February. Reuters reports that a U.S. Navy destroyer fired warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Cards near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed. Business Insider corroborates the report that the Revolutionary Guards are not participating in the exercises.
The US is concerned with the war games primarily due to the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil lane, which ships millions of barrels of oil to the west every day, as reported Fox News. According to The Guardian, the oil shipped through the strait is nearly a fifth of all global oil traffic. President Donald Trump tweeted last month that “Iran has been formally put on notice” after a recent ballistic missile test, which Business Insider and The Guardian report will be followed by renewed American sanctions, scheduled to take full effect in June. The Guardian interviewed Gary Sick, a professor at Columbia University with a specialty in Iran, in order to gauge his opinion on the outcome of these sanctions. Sick states that the current situation is seen as “the equivalent of a military blockade of Iran’s oil ports, arguably an act of war”, continuing that, “The main reason why Iran’s putative threat to close the Strait of Hormuz was dismissed is because Iran also relies on the strait to export its own oil”.
While these exercises have been an annual event in Iran’s military, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, tells the Guardian that these war games will be “different compared to previous exercises held”.
The United States and Israel, in response to these training exercises, have declared that they will hold their own joint exercises, testing their ability in anti-air defense, according to the Guardian. It also reports that these training events will be the largest joint operations conducted by the two allies and have been applauded by both Israelis and Americans. According to Reuters, the United States has a naval fleet, the 5th Fleet, stationed in the Persian Gulf, to protect existing American shipping from piracy or other encroachment. The 5th Fleet declined comment from Fox News, which sought their opinion on the matter. One aircraft carrier from the fleet, the USS John Stennis, is currently in the Indian Ocean, and the Iranian government has warned the United States to have the John Stennis remain out of the Persian Gulf. The Guardian reports that the Navy does not intend to change their patrol schedules.
According to the Guardian, other nations have also imposed sanctions on Iran, and the European Parliament is considering a motion to embargo all Iranian oil imports after an International Atomic Energy Agency report confirmed that Iran has been working on designs for a potential nuclear weapon. The Guardian also reports that the Iranian government has made clear that any attempt to embargo Iranian imports will be countered by a complete closure of the Strait of Hormuz. The Guardian reported that Philip Hammond, the British defense secretary, said during a visit to Washington “Disruption to the flow of oil through the strait of Hormuz would threaten regional and global economic growth. Any attempt by Iran to close the strait would be illegal and unsuccessful.” What steps the United States and the United Kingdom may take to prevent closure of the strait remains unclear.