Iran kicks off annual war games ahead of nuclear talks with the West

The Iranian military has started its annual war games in a coastal area in the Gulf of Oman, state television reported on Sunday, less than a month before nuclear talks with the West.

The report says navy and air force units as well as ground forces were participating in the exercise in an area of ​​over 386,100 square miles (1 million square kilometers) east of the strategic Strait of Hormuz. .

Almost 20% of all oil shipments pass through the Strait to the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

A tank maneuvering in southeast Iran (Iranian army via AP)

The exercise comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the United States following the unilateral withdrawal of the United States by former President Donald Trump from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers.

State television said brigades comprising commandos and airborne infantry were deployed for the annual exercise. Fighter jets, helicopters, military transport planes, submarines and drones were also expected. The duration of the exercise was not immediately clear.

Dubbed “Zolfaghar-1400”, the war games aim to “improve preparedness against foreign threats and any possible invasion,” state television said.

Troops on maneuver in southeast Iran
Troops in maneuver during the annual war games (Iranian army via AP)

US officials said last week that Iran seized a Vietnamese-flagged tanker in the Gulf of Oman last month and still detains the vessel in its port.

Iran has offered conflicting accounts of what happened, claiming elite Revolutionary Guard commandos thwarted the US seizure of an oil tanker carrying Iranian oil in the Gulf of Oman and freed vessel. He broadcast dramatic footage on state television but did not further explain the incident.

The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, and aims to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Paratroopers prepare for deployment during the annual war games
Paratroopers prepare for deployment during exercise (Iranian Army via AP)

After the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and the reinstatement of sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic has gradually and publicly abandoned the limits of the agreement on its nuclear development.

Iran says its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached over 463 lbs (210 kg), the latest provocative move ahead of upcoming nuclear negotiations with the West.

Under the landmark nuclear deal, Iran was prohibited from enriching uranium above 3.67%. Uranium enriched to more than 90% can be used for nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

After months of delay, the European Union, Iran and the United States announced last week that indirect talks to revive the deal would resume on November 29 in Vienna.

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