Oil prices jump as military tensions engulf Iran

Iran has concluded yet another military exercise to deter a military attack amid a massive Iran-centred military build-up by American and Israeli forces, whose command posts extend into the heart of Europe.

On Monday, Iran's elite Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), ended the Shohaday-e-Vahdat (Martyrs of Unity) exercise aimed at countering infiltration in “vital and pivotal areas,” said IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari. During these manoeuvres in which Iranian forces demonstrated their “asymmetric warfare” skills, Iran also unveiled its domestically manufactured wheeled and tracked armoured personnel carriers. These exercise on land, close to the border with Afghanistan, followed large scale naval manoeuvres, held over 10 days, not far from the Strait of Hormuz, the vital channel through which 20 per cent of world's oil supplies pass. Iran has threatened to block this Strait, and disrupt energy supplies to international oil markets, in case the Americans throttle Iran's oil exports — the country's vital economic lifeline. The U.S. has already passed a law that can curb Iran's international energy exports; a move that the 27-nation European Union (EU) is likely to endorse during the bloc's crucial meeting on January 23.

On Tuesday, oil rose to $113 a barrel after it was confirmed that Iran was carrying out 20 per cent enrichment of uranium in Fardo, notwithstanding Iran's submission of the facility, near Qom, to surveillance by the IAEA. The Americans are mounting pressure on Iran, apparently on suspicions that the country is developing atomic weapons, despite the inability of IAEA inspectors to discover so far a “smoking gun” that would establish that Tehran was, indeed, pursuing atomic weapons.

Military tensions over West Asia have spiralled after 9,000 American troops were earmarked to land in Israel for staging Austere Challenge-12, the largest ever military exercise that has been conceived by the two allies. In a comment posted on the website, academic and military analyst Michel Chossudovsky points out that Iran is the focus of this upcoming exercise. “The assumption of this military deployment is the staging of a joint U.S.-Israeli air attack on Iran. Military escalation towards a regional war is part of the military scenario.” He adds that “the redeployment of U.S. and allied troops previously stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq,” have been a factor in strengthening the military buildup in West Asia.

Analysts point out that during these exercises, the Americans and the Israelis appear to have factored possible attacks on Israel by Iranian medium range missiles, as well as supplementary targeting by short range rockets by Hizbollah, Iran's key ally in south Lebanon, and Hamas which administers the Gaza Strip. Not surprisingly, Israeli forces plan to deploy in the country's north and south, their recently developed Iron Dome system, which can counter short-range rockets and missiles. The Israeli daily Jerusalem Post says Iron Dome system will be integrated with an air defence shield that includes Israel's Arrow missile, the American land-based THAAD and the ship launched Aegis missile systems, which can shoot down ballistic missiles.

The daily adds that the drill will include the establishment of U.S. command posts in Israel and Israeli command posts at the U.S. European Command headquarters in Germany — with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in case West Asia is engulfed in a large-scale conflict.

Hoping to dent the U.S.-led military preponderance in the region, Russia has steamed into Syria, a key ally of Iran, a formidable naval task force. The Russian flotilla, led by the aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuztnetsov had on Sunday docked in Syria's port of Tartus, Moscow's only naval base in the Mediterranean. Analysts say in case Russia enhances its military presence in these waters, it can help address the asymmetrical balance of the power in the region.

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Printable version | Apr 24, 2021 12:01:11 AM |

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