TEHRAN, Iran – Iran unexpectedly announced Wednesday that it would be holding military maneuvers in the Gulf this week, only days after U.S.-led navies held exercises in the same waterway.
Iranian state television quoted the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, as saying the 10-day maneuvers, named "Great Prophet," would take place in the Gulf and the Sea of Oman, beginning Thursday.
"The war games are aimed at demonstrating the deterrent power of the guards against possible threats," Safavi said.
Safavi stressed the drills were not a threat to neighboring countries, saying: "Our neighbors are our friends. The guards just want to prove that they ready to resist in any threatening situation."
His announcement came two days after U.S.-led warships finished a two-day maneuver in the Gulf — an exercise that Iran described as ""adventurist."
Iran said the six-nation drills would not improve security in the Gulf waters, through which about 20 percent of the world's oil passes. It also called on Gulf nations to set up their own regional security arrangements.
The U.S.-led maneuvers focused on surveillance, with warships tracking a ship suspected of carrying components of illegal weapons. The nations that took part were Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the United States.
Iran regularly holds large maneuvers, often using them to test weapons developed by its arms industry.
On Wednesday, Safavi told state TV: "The guard's air force will test fire the Shahab-3 (missile), equipped with cluster warhead, in the war game."
The Shahab-3 missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has a range of more than 1,242.8 miles. It can reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday defended Moscow's deal to supply air defense missiles to Iran, saying they were purely defensive weapons with a limited range.
"I wish to underline that these systems cannot be used in offensive operations," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told Russia Today television in an interview broadcast early Wednesday. "Secondly, they have a limited use as they are capable of protecting a small part of the Iranian territory."
Moscow has refused to bow to Western pressure and cancel its $700 million contract to sell 29 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran which was signed last December.