The Iranian army on Sunday began drills in the southwest of the country, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

“The exercise of the army of the Islamic Republic of Iran on an area of more than one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) east of the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman and north of the Indian Ocean has begun,” state television said, as quoted by the AFP news agency.

It broadcast images of the military exercises which involved helicopters, tanks, drones, ships and speedboats.

“This exercise is a serious warning to our enemies and those who have ill intentions towards Iran,” the spokesman for the drills, Admiral Mahmoud Moussavi, was quoted as having said by the IRIB news agency.

The drill comes days after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps announced it had thwarted an attempt by the US Navy to seize a vessel carrying its oil in the Sea of Oman the previous week.

US defense officials denied the IRGC claim and said it was Iran which seized a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman last month and still holds the vessel.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops took control of the MV Southys, a vessel that analysts suspect of trying to transfer sanctioned Iranian crude oil to Asia, on October 24 at gunpoint, the officials said.

US forces had monitored the seizure, but ultimately didn’t take action as the vessel sailed into Iranian waters.

In August, Iran attacked an Israeli-owned oil tanker, the MV Mercer Street, as it sailed in the Arabian Sea. Two of the ship’s crew members were killed in that attack, which the US promised to repay with an “appropriate response.”

In the last few years there have been several close encounters between Iranian and American vessels in the Persian Gulf. The Revolutionary Guard typically patrols the shallower waters of the Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth, the Strait of Hormuz.

One such incident in May of 2020 included a tense encounter between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.

The US military said at the time that 11 Revolutionary Guards naval vessels from the Guards navy came close to US Navy and coast guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledged that the incident had taken place, but also claimed that it was American forces who sparked the incident.

In April of 2020, a spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces said that the Islamic Republic will respond “severely” if US vessels violate its territorial waters.

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