Iran says it plans major gulf naval exercise

Iran’s navy will stage a large exercise in the Persian Gulf in February, an official English-language Tehran newspaper reported Sunday, including maneuvers planned specifically for the Strait of Hormuz, the choke point through which some 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.

Code-named “Etand 86,” or “Unity 86,” the exercise will include the operational debut of a homebuilt diesel-electric attack submarine, The Tehran Times reported. Navy commander Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayari told the newspaper that the navy expected to take delivery of the new sub on Wednesday, Iran’s national navy day. A state news service also reported that Iran was claiming it would accept a new destroyer the same day.

“The navy has the potential to control all enemy movements in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman and to give a crushing answer to enemies when needed thanks to domestically-made equipment,” Sayari told the Times. He called the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf “a propaganda campaign” against Iran, and he said that “foreign forces should leave the region as soon as possible so to escape the quagmire they have created for themselves.”

The U.S. has maintained a carrier strike group — and, at times, two — in the 5th Fleet area of operations since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Enterprise strike group is on station there now, to be relieved in a few weeks by the Harry S. Truman Strike Group.

There were few details about the new ships that officials said were joining the Iranian fleet. According to Jane’s Fighting Ships, the Iranian navy fields three Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric subs, but there are reports that it plans new types of small, coastal defense boats. Jane’s lists no destroyers in the Iranian fleet; it says that Iran’s largest surface warships are the 1,350-ton Alvand-class frigates.