Tehran ‘ready to expand’ military links with Baghdad
Iran’s Navy Commander Habibulah Sayari holds a news conference in Tehran Dec 22. REUTERS photoIran stands ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq, its armed forces chief of staff said yesterday, a week after the exit of U.S. forces from the neighboring Arab country.
General Hassan Firouzabadi hailed the “forced departure” of the U.S. and allied forces that he said “was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government,” the state Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The statements were made in messages Firouzabadi sent to his Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, and to Iraq’s acting defense minister, Saadun al-Dulaimi, IRNA said. The departure of the U.S. troops “was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government,” he said. Firouzabadi added that Iran was now “ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq.” Zebari led a delegation of Iraqi military chiefs to Iran last month to explore greater cooperation between the two defence forces.
Iran ‘shows off’ in Hormuz
Meanwhile, Iran’s navy began a 10-day drill Dec. 24 in international waters near the strategic oil route that passes through the Strait of Hormuz. The exercises, dubbed “Velayat 90,” could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels in the area. The war games cover a 2,000-kilometer stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, state TV reported. The drill will be Iran’s latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its controversial nuclear program. Navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said Iran is holding the drill to show off its prowess and defense capabilities. “To show off its might, the navy needs to be present in international waters. It’s necessary to demonstrate the navy’s defense capabilities,” state TV quoted Sayyari as saying. The Strait of Hormuz is of strategic significance as the passageway for about a third of the world’s oil tanker traffic. The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is also active in the area, as are warships of several other countries that patrol for pirates there. Sayyari said submarines, surface-to-sea missile systems, missile-launching vessels, torpedoes and drones will be employed in the maneuvers.