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Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard on Thursday started large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state television reported.

Iran has been holding military maneuvers in the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz annually since 2006 to show off its military capabilities. The last four editions of the games were held in the summer, but there has been no official explanation why they were brought forward this year.

The war games have routinely heightened tension in the region, but they have more recently taken added significance as the standoff between the West and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program grows deeper.

The West suspects the program conceals a nuclear arm production drive, a charge that Iran denies.
Iran has in the past signaled that it would close the Strait of Hormuz if attacked by the West, something that makes holding war games there a particularly sensitive move. Some 40 percent of the world’s oil and energy supplies pass through the narrow waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

In Washington, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell played down the significance of the maneuvers, saying “they don’t seem out of the ordinary” from what Iran’s military has done in the past.

Asked Wednesday — the day the maneuvers were announced in Tehran — what concerns he had about the Iranian war games, Morrell said: “I haven’t heard any particular concerns.”

Source: Nasser Karimi for Yahoo! News AP

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