On Wednesday, May 5, Iran launched its biggest ever naval and military war exercise, calling it "Great Prophet" or "Judgment Day." The drill under the command of the Iranian Navy commander, Rear Admiral, will last eight days and cover a quarter of a million square kilometers – from the big Iranian naval base of Chah Bahar in the Arabian Sea near Pakistan, to the Gulf of Aden and the shores of Somalia in the West, and the Red Sea straits off Yemen northwest of Iran.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian and military sources reveal that the war games have five principal goals, which Tehran has not published:
- As a demonstration to US, Gulf and Israeli governments that Iran has solved all the military issues besetting its shores in a potential war. Tehran aims to show its forces are capable of seizing control of the Persian Gulf and repelling or neutralizing all the military forces and fleets present there, including the US Fifth Fleet and its command headquarters in Bahrain.
- As a warning to the West and its Arab neighbors that, if war breaks out, Iran will seize command of all the oil export routes out of the Gulf, primarily the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf of Aden.
As a corollary to the naval drill last week, which Tehran saw as having aptly demonstrated the first two objectives, Iran is now moving on to the main stage of the new "Great Prophet" maneuver, the seizure of parts of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden by its naval and air forces.
For the first time in its contemporary history, Iran is flexing muscle to assert its dominance of the northern reaches of this ocean. An official spokesman made it clear Wednesday, May 5, that the war games would be conducted in the Sea of Oman and "all the strategic waterways connecting it to the Persian Gulf."
Practices for breaching a naval blockade against Iran
Iranian strategists believe that control of a large segment of the Indian Ocean and passageways to the Red Sea will not only enable Iran to cut American Persian Gulf units from their sources of supplies and reinforcements, but also isolate the huge American Camp Justice base complex on Diego Garcia and make it vulnerable to Iranian attacks.
(See DNW 443 of April 30: "Work at feverish pace to prepare logistic base on Diego Garcia.)
The first two days of the maneuver (Wednesday and Thursday, May 5-6), were devoted to drilling the breaching and breaking of a naval blockade potentially thrown up by the United States when sanctions fail to have any effect and backed by allied British, French, Italian and German fleets.
Iranian leaders are plainly bracing for their relations with Washington to continue to deteriorate up to and including an eventual military showdown.
This line of thinking colored the remarks of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday, May 4, in New York, when he warned that more UN sanctions would not stop Iran's nuclear program but permanently wreck its relations with the United States.
"Relations with the United States might never be repaired if new sanctions were imposed against us," the Iranian president said.
To underscore the weight of its military options against the United States, the Islamic Republic has invested the bulk of its might in the Judgment Day war game – most of its marines, special operations units and commandos, almost all its warships, submarines and air force and an array of new weaponry for dazzling potential enemies.
Western military observers monitoring the maneuver were surprised to find Iran's borders almost stripped suddenly of their regular guard units; they had been diverted to the Persian Gulf maneuvers far from home, along with the bulk of Iran's armed forces.