Iran confirms holding war drills in Gulf

Revolutionary Guard exercises held early this year amid tensions with the US

Traditional Omani boats known as dhows, and cargo ships are seen sailing towards the Strait of Hormuz, off the coast of Musandam province, Oman, July 21, 2018. Picture taken July 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Iran's Revolutionary Guard confirmed on Sunday it had held war games in the  Gulf over the past several days, saying they were aimed at "confronting possible threats" by enemies, the reported.

"This exercise was conducted with the aim of controlling and safeguarding the safety of the international waterway and within the framework of the programme of the Guards' annual military exercises," spokesman Ramezan Sharif said, according state news agency IRNA.

The timing of the annual naval exercises was apparently moved up amid heightened tensions with Washington.

The US military’s Central Command said it saw increased Iranian naval activity last week that extended to the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments that the Revolutionary Guard have threatened to block.

According to US officials, possibly more than 100 vessels were involved in the drills, including small boats. The drills appeared designed to send a message to Washington, which is intensifying its economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out the Iran nuclear deal will result in some US sanctions being reimposed from Monday and has triggered a steep fall in the Iranian currency.

On Sunday, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said seven people including a former deputy central bank governor and five foreign exchange dealers for alleged economic crimes.

The Iranian rial has lost about half of its value since April because of a weak economy and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians who fear the effects of crippling US sanctions.

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