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U.S., Allies Begin Gulf Military Exercises

September 17, 2012

Naval exercises involving vessels from 30 nations, including the United States, are under way in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. military is calling the antimine maneuvers the most widely attended international naval exercise ever held in the Middle East.

They come amid rising regional tensions over Iran's controversial nuclear program and a fresh warning from the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-third of the world's traded oil passes, would be a legitimate target in the event of conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed on September 16 that Iran was just six to seven months away from the brink of being able to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran has regularly denied it is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, although the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has accused it of conducting a nuclear weapons program and of failing to disclose other key elements of its atomic activities.

The top commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned Israel and the United States on September 16 against any attack, saying Tehran would retaliate decisively.

Jafari also made a surprise disclosure that Iran had IRGC elite troops in neighboring Syria, where they are helping embattled President Bashar al-Assad fight back Arab Spring-style protests and insurrection, and he said "if Syria came under attack, Iran would also give military support."

Based on reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AFP

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/us-allies-begin-persian-gulf-exercises/24710472.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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