TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iranian army commandos and airborne units started exercises near the mouth of the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, the last full day of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
National television showed paratroopers landing behind mock enemy lines near the port of Jask on the Gulf of Oman and preparing attacks with missile launchers. Images released by the army showed fighter jets, attack helicopters, military transport aircraft, tanks and missiles in combat, and hundreds of personnel ready to be deployed.
The drill is the fifth military show of combat readiness in two weeks, with the army’s ground forces holding land, air, and sea exercises along the coast of Makran and the Sea of Oman. Iran’s Army chief Abdolrahim Mousavi is overseeing the drill.
The army said it is deploying rapid response forces to test out "a variety of creative indigenous tactics” and is using divers to complete predefined scenarios.
"Today, army ground forces have achieved considerable operational capabilities in deploying drones and missiles,” said Brigadier General Muhammad Hussein Dadras, deputy chief of the Iranian army.
"The power and might of the army’s ground forces in responding to threats will be displayed in this exercise.”
On Saturday, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps conducted a drill, launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target at a distance of some 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) in the Indian Ocean, a day after the IRGC’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against "hypothetical enemy bases” in the country’s vast central desert.
Last Thursday, Iran’s navy fired cruise missiles as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, and ordered a U.S. nuclear submarine to leave the area. Earlier last week, the IRGC’s affiliated forces carried out a limited maneuver in the Persian Gulf after a massive, drones-only drill across half of the country earlier in January.
"The recent war games show to enemies the Iranian nation’s will to defend its independence and territorial integrity,” IRGC commander General Hussein Salami said Tuesday.
The drills, he said, bring "calm and confidence” for the Iranian people and signal that Iran will not falter in defending itself. "Our fingers are on the trigger on behalf of the nation.”
Iran has the Middle East’s most potent missile capability, regarding it as a deterrent and retaliatory force against the United States and other adversaries in the event of war.
The drill comes days after the U.S. flew B-52 bombers over the region for the fifth time in the past two months.
The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump first flew the bombers in the run-up to the January 3 anniversary of the assassination of Iran’s iconic anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani.
He has also sent the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region.
The Chief of Staff of the Iranian
Armed Forces Major General Muhammad Hussein Baqeri on Monday played down the significance of the flights, saying they have no operational value.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif condemned the B-52 mission, saying the U.S. should spend its military billions on its taxpayers’ health if it meant to intimidate Iran.
"While we have not started a war in over 200 years, we don’t shy from crushing aggressors,” he said.