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Iran expected to begin Gulf exercises

From Barbara Starr, CNN
F-4 Phantom fighter jets fly during the Army Day parade in the Iranian capital Tehran on April 18.
F-4 Phantom fighter jets fly during the Army Day parade in the Iranian capital Tehran on April 18.
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guard set to begin air, land and sea exercises in Persian Gulf
  • U.S. has noticed Iran "relocating surface and air assets" ahead of major exercise
  • U.S. will watch to see if it includes Strait of Hormuz, transit point for oil supplies
  • Iran
  • United States

(CNN) -- The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is expected to begin air, land and sea exercises in the Persian Gulf, perhaps as soon as Thursday, according to Iran's IRIB news agency.

A U.S. military official separately confirmed to CNN that the United States has observed in recent days Iran is "relocating surface and air assets" for what appears to be a major exercise. The official did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The exercise could last five days, according to Iranian media reports. Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy chief of the Revolutionary Guard, is quoted in Iranian media as saying the exercises are aimed at demonstrating Iran's "strength, will and national resolve to defend independence and territorial integrity."

The United States will be watching to see if the exercises include the narrow Strait of Hormuz region -- a major transit point for world oil supplies.

The military official noted there have been several Iranian exercises in the past, but this one is getting attention because the Revolutionary Guard Corps is speaking about it publicly in advance.

The corps' naval forces have operated in a more erratic fashion than the conventional Iranian navy in the past, according to several U.S. military sources. But the U.S. official said the U.S. Navy does not expect tension to rise during the exercise period.

The U.S. Navy currently is operating several warships in the region, and commanders often are reminded not to let any encounters with Iranians inadvertently escalate.

"To be prudent, we are fully aware of the activities of other navies, such as Iran, as we are sure they are aware of our activities," said Cmdr. Chris Sims, spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. "We expect the upcoming IRGCN exercises will be another example of our two navies' ability to work in close proximity, with no significant impacts to either's exercises or operations."