US officials say Iran is carrying out naval exercises in the Persian Gulf. The annual drills are apparently coming ahead of schedule as tensions escalate between Tehran and Washington. One official told Reuters on Thursday, there were possibly more than 100 vessels involved in the exercise, including in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz.
US President Donald Trump recently withdrew from a major deal that would stop Iran developing nuclear weapons and announced plans to re-impose sanctions on Tehran. And as Reuters' Phil Stewart explains, this week's surprise drills might just be a signal of the Iranian leadership's anger. Well, it appears that Iran is trying to message the United States or at least prepare itself for a potential future action as these United States sanctions come back into effect on the 7th of August.
And Iran's currency has been pummeled by the prospect of these sanctions already, lost about half its value this year. And I think that these exercises are sort of part and parcel to what we've been hearing from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which is that they are prepared to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if they have to, if the US follows through with its threats to try and choke off a lot of its oil exports.
>> The Strait of Hormuz marks the entrance to the Persian Gulf. One-third of global oil supplies have to pass through the strait. But one official told Reuters, Iran's naval operations did not appear to be affecting commercial shipping, at least not yet.>> Countries carry out exercises in their waters and even in international waters.
And the US does the same thing, so I wouldn't imagine there would be a response to this exercise. Now, however, that being said, it remains the right of the United States or any other country to continue to use the Strait of Hormuz and to continue to use international waterways as a passageway for international trade.
So were the exercise to block international trade, well that would be a different matter.>> Trump's policies are already having big effects on Iran's economy, following his withdrawal from the nuclear deal originally negotiated under Obama.