Iran stages massive military war games

TEHRAN, Aug 19, 2006 (AFP) – Iranian armed forces held a massive military maneuver Saturday to test new weapons and tactics against a potential enemy, state television reported.

The first stage of "Zolfaghar Blow" commenced in the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. The maneuvers will continue in 15 other provinces in northeastern, northwestern, western and southern Iran.

"Zolfaghar" was the two-point sword of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed and is a revered figure in Shiite Islam, the dominant religion in Iran.

"The main objective of this operation is to adopt up-to-date tactics and using new equipment to be able to respond to possible threats, enabling us to confront the enemy in several fronts in the country," Brigadier General Kiumars Heydari said.

According to the report, the maneuver tests a new antiaircraft strategy to "make the air space insecure for the enemy," while using different types of helicopters, fighter planes and land forces warfare.

"We have been alert and watching the world’s (war) developments and we have invested in both modern tactics and equipment," Heydari noted.

In April, the Islamic republic unveiled a wide range of weaponry such as multiple-head missiles, high-speed torpedoes and radar-evading anti-ship missiles in a week of military exercises in the strategic Gulf waters to the south.

The latest operations come amid rising tensions with the West over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, under suspicion to be a cover for developing an atomic bomb.

Iran has two bodies of armed forces, the traditional army and the elite Revolutionary Guards, an ideological army, equipped with terrestrial, naval and air units. All are under the command of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.