Iran started on Friday six days of naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz, the official IRNA news agency reported, maneuvers aimed at showcasing its military capabilities in what is a vital oil and gas shipping route.
Naval commander Habibollah Sayyari said the “Velayat 91” drills would last until Wednesday across an area of about 1 million square kilometers in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, IRNA said.
Sayyari said the goal of the maneuvers were to show “the armed forces’ military capabilities” in defending Iran’s borders as well as sending a message of peace and friendship to neighboring countries.
He also warned ships to stay away from the site until Jan. 3.
The drills come as the West increases its pressure over Iran’s nuclear program. The West suspects it may be aimed at producing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Iran has threatened to close the straits, where one-fifth of the world’s oil passes, over Western sanctions but has not repeated the threats lately.
Last year, Iran held a similar drill that lasted 10 days. On September 2012, it launched a destroyer and submarine to the Arab Gulf in the same time the United States and its allies conducted naval exercises to find ways to keep the strait open for oil cargo shipments.
A heavy Western naval presence in the Gulf is meant to deter any attempt to block the waterway.