| 20 May 2024, Monday |

Iran begins annual war games ahead of nuke talks with West

Iran’s military began its annual war games Sunday in a coastal area of the Gulf of Oman, according to state TV, less than a month before upcoming nuclear talks with the West.

According to the report, navy and air force units, as well as ground forces, were involved in a more than 1 million square-kilometer (386,100 square-mile) area east of the strategically important Strait of Hormuz.

Approximately 20% of all oil shipping to the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean passes through the strait.

The drill comes as tensions between Iran and the United States have risen in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the United States from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

According to state television, brigades including commandos and airborne infantry have been deployed for the annual exercise. The drill was also expected to include fighter jets, helicopters, military transport aircraft, submarines, and drones. The duration of the exercise was not immediately clear.

The war games, dubbed “Zolfaghar-1400,” are aimed at “improving readiness in confronting foreign threats and any possible invasion,” according to state TV.

According to US officials, Iran seized a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman last month and is still holding the vessel in its port.

Iran provided conflicting accounts of what occurred, claiming that elite Revolutionary Guard commandos thwarted a US seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman and freed the vessel. It aired dramatic footage on state television but did not go into further detail about the incident.

The nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, with the goal of preventing Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

After the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran, the Islamic Republic gradually — and publicly — abandoned the agreement’s limits on nuclear development.

Iran says its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has grown to more than 210 kilograms (463 pounds), the latest defiance ahead of upcoming nuclear talks with the West.

Iran was prohibited from enriching uranium above 3.67 percent under the historic nuclear deal. Though Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, enriched uranium above 90% can be used for nuclear weapons.

After months of delays, the European Union, Iran, and the United States announced last week that indirect talks to resurrect the deal would resume in Vienna on November 29.

  • Associated Press