x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Ahmadinejad blames US presence for regional insecurity

Iran's president lambasts the presence of US-led western naval forces as the 'main reason for insecurity' in the Arabian Gulf. Michael Theodoulou reports

Iran's president yesterday lambasted the presence of US-led western naval forces as the "main reason for insecurity" in the Arabian Gulf.

It came as his country celebrated its National Army Day with boasts of major advances in home-made military technology.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke shortly before a chest-thumping military parade in Tehran, suring whcih Iran displayed what it said were three new, domestically made drones.

The country's army commander, Gen Ataollah Salehi, used the occasion to declare that his forces "alone" could destroy Israel.

Responding to recent Israeli claims that its military could attack Iran's nuclear facilities without US support. He said Israel was no scarier than a barking dog that could not bite. "We have no confidence in these threats," he said.

With scant progress at nuclear talks this month between Iran and six world powers, Israel has repeated its threats to resort to military action to stop what it believes are attempts by Tehran to build nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its atomic programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

Pride of place in yesterday's parade went to the Sarir (throne) drone, hailed as a long-range stealth vehicle equipped with air-to-air missiles that Tehran claimed had the range to reach much of the Middle East.

Iranian naval officials said a "flying boat" and new cruise missile would also be unveiled in coming weeks, along with a warship and a minesweeping vessel.

"Iran does a good job of advertising its equipment for deterrence purposes," said Michael Elleman, a missiles expert at the Bahrain offices of Britain's International Institute of Strategic Studies.

"There is a fair bit of exaggeration that accompanies claims but they've been very innovative and increasingly self-sufficient, and have also shown their ability to leverage technology from places such as China," he said. "In terms of capability or accuracy, that's where they make wild claims."

Iran's state-run media dutifully relayed the regime's long-standing message that the country's defence doctrine was one of deterrence and posed no threat to its Gulf Arab neighbours.

Mr Ahmadinejad reasserted yesterday that Iran had "always guarded peace and security" in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the main route for oil exports from the region. But implicit in that message was that Gulf Arab countries must respect Iran's power.

The Fars news agency, which is affiliated with Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, said the country's "military might is merely based on the state's doctrine of deterrence and poses no threat to other countries".

Such assurances cut little ice with Sunni Gulf nations that rely on US help for their defence. They view Shiite Iran as a threat, fearing its regional and nuclear ambitions.

Iran has often threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if its nuclear facilities were attacked by Israel or the US. Its navy yesterday flexed its military muscle near the strait, with state TV broadcasting a display of Russian-made Kilo class submarines that Iran obtained in the early 1990s.

mtheodoulou@thenational.ae

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