Iran Announces Parallel Exercise in Persian Gulf
With sanctions on Iran over the present nuclear crisis under consideration by the members of the UN Security Council, the six-nation Exercise Leading Edge counter-proliferation preparedness drills in the Persian Gulf have prompted Iran to hold impromptu military exercises as a show of force. With Exercise Leading Edge underway and under the Iranian regime’s skin, it has announced that the unplanned Grand Prophet 2 exercise will begin Thursday in ten Iranian provinces spanning nine days.
The US-organized operation is considered a dry run for potential cargo inspections by the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) members should sanctions call for such measures. The recent UN Sanctions on North Korea provided for PSI-led cargo inspections.
Iran’s exercise will kick off with the launch of multiple Shahab-3 medium range missiles. The Shahab-3 has the range to target Israel. While the only US ship involved in the current counter-proliferation exercise is a US Coast Guard cutter, the Iranians had announced that it distrusted the operation calling it “US adventurism” and adding that “Countries of the region can provide security better than any other party.” Regional Arab states, however, are increasingly wary of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and a perceived quest for regional dominance.
Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean recently elected UN Secretary General, urged Iran to halt its uranium enrichment operations saying, “At the moment, Iran should stop its uranium enrichment and accept the proposals of the [Iran] six.”
Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said yesterday that Russia does not believe there has been evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Said Ivanov, “We believe that the possibilities for continuing political discussion around this problem have not been exhausted.” Though Russia has called for more talks with Iran, the permanent member of the Security Council has said that it will directly oppose any ‘punishing sanctions’ proposed against its Iranian nuclear trading partner.
Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, blasted the draft resolution proposal prepared by the EU and the United States that called for sanctions against Iran. Lavrov said today, “We cannot support measures that in essence are aimed at isolating Iran from the outside world, including isolating people who are called upon to conduct negotiations on the nuclear program.” He went on to say that the draft proposal goes far beyond the scope of agreements between members of the Security Council which, Russia maintains, are based on objectives as presented to the Security Council by the IAEA.
While the Iranian ‘Grand Prophet 2’ exercises are a show of force, the Russian statements can be seen as a show of solidarity, as Russia remains the buffer between the Iranian regime and sanctions against it.