DUBAI, Sept 18 Iran launched a submarine and a
destroyer into the Gulf from Bandar Abbas port on Tuesday at the
same time as U.S. and allied navies held exercises in the same
waters to practice keeping oil shipping lanes open.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of
Hormuz, a route for oil exports from the Gulf, if Iranian
nuclear sites are attacked by Israel, which believes Tehran is
trying to develop an atomic bomb.
The United States, Britain, France and a number of Middle
Eastern states are conducting a naval exercise in the Gulf this
week, focusing on how to clear mines that Tehran or guerilla
groups might deploy to disrupt tanker traffic.
Iran's refitted Tareq-901 submarine and Sahand destroyer
were launched on the direct orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei, the official IRNA news agency reported.
On the other side of the country, Khamenei visited the
northern coastal city of Nowshahr on Tuesday to watch naval
cadets practice planting mines, freeing hijacked ships,
destroying enemy vessels and jumping from helicopters, his
official website said.
"The armed forces must reach capabilities such that no one
can attack the strong fence of the country and the dear people
of Iran," Khamenei told army commanders, according to the
Iranian Students News Agency.
Iran's Tareq-class submarines are diesel-electric boats that
were originally built in Russia in the early 1990s, according to
the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-profit organisation which
focuses on security affairs.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday
that Tehran was close to being able to build a nuclear bomb,
fuelling speculation about an Israeli strike. Iran insists its
nuclear programme is peaceful.
Publicly, Iranian military officials have sounded relaxed
about the U.S. naval exercise.
"This exercise is a defensive exercise and we don't perceive
any threats from it," Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, told local media.
"We are not conducting exercises in response."
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Angus MacSwan)