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Iranian Navy, Military Conduct New Round of Maneuvers in the Gulf

Iran's navy and armed forces are holding another series of maritime maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian TV showed rows of helicopters flying in the second day of an eight-day series of naval and military exercises. Army pick-up trucks also took part in drills on a beach front, as speed-boats raced out to sea.

Fars News Agency reported the exercises are for defense and naval frigates, destroyers, submarines and combat helicopters are taking part.

Spokesman Admiral Qassem Rostam Abadi said Iran's military is ready to confront all adversaries.

He says the second stage of [Iran's] 'Velayet 89' maneuvers includes exercises in coastal waters around the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman. He says military equipment including missiles, fighter jets, and anti-aircraft radar systems are being tested.

It is the second time in two weeks Iran has conducted military exercises close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's crude oil is shipped.

The state-controlled media reported Iranian navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the maneuvers are intended to send a "message of peace and friendship" to Iran's neighbors.

Tensions between Iran and some Arab Gulf states have risen in recent weeks, including protests by the United Arab Emirates over Tehran's occupation of three small islands claimed by the UAE. Kuwaiti officials also denounced an alleged Iranian spy-cell they say was operating on their soil.

Analyst Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS center in Tel Aviv says the most probable purpose of Iran's latest maneuvers is to gloss over long-standing weaknesses of its navy:

"The soft underbelly of the Iranian military is the navy and I think through these exercises the Iranians are trying to cover up their weaknesses," he said. "The last time the Iranian navy fought was during the Iran-Iraq War, where it fared extremely badly. In fact, it was one of the weakest Iranian defenses against Iraq and was very unsuccessful due to lack of training and equipment."

Javedanfar says the Iranian military "... basically wants to portray itself as a very powerful, conventional force in the Middle East," and to "justify the defense budget" to the Iranian people.