Iran is prepared to launch missiles at US bases throughout the Gulf within minutes of an attack on the Islamic Republic, according to a commander of the country's Revolutionary Guards.
In an apparent response to reports that the US has increased its military presence in the Gulf, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air force said on Wednesday that missiles had been aimed at 35 US military bases in the Gulf as well as targets in Israel, ready to be launched in case of an attack.
"We have thought of measures to set up bases and deploy missiles to destroy all these bases in the early minutes after an attack," said Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Hajizadeh's remarks were made on the sidelines of a three-day war game, called Great Prophet Seven, which Iranian officials claimed was a show of defence against western pressure, including the US and EU embargo against imports of Iranian oil that came into effect on 1 July.
"These [US] bases are all in range of our missiles, and the occupied lands [a reference to Israel] are also good targets for us," Hajizadeh said.
During the exercise, the elite Revolutionary Guards – who have their own military divisions separate from the Iranian army – test-fired dozens of missiles, including Shahab-3 and Sejil, which are said to have a range of 1,200 miles, capable of hitting Israel.
The US military has several bases in the Gulf, and the navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is 120 miles from the Iranian coast. Israel is about 600 miles away from Iran.
Domestically, the war games were also aimed at showing progress in the missile industry, despite a series of dramatic setbacks in recent years. In November 2011, an explosion at the Alghadir missile base, 30 miles from Tehran, killed Major General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, who was described as the "architect" of the country's missile programme. It also killed at least two dozen members of the Revolutionary Guards working at the base.
The US has significantly reinforced its military presence in the Gulf, increasing the number of fighter jets and minesweepers, in preparation for a possible blocking of the strait of Hormuz by Iran.
Iranian officials have signalled that in reaction to the oil sanctions they may shut the strait, a vital passageway in the Gulf through which one-fifth of the world's crude passes in tankers. In a recent development, the Iranian parliament said it would discuss a bill proposed by at least 100 MPs which requires the government to block oil tankers in the Gulf.
Israel has said it may carry out a pre-emptive military strike against Iran because of its nuclear activities, but there are doubts about whether it has the logistical capacity to do that without the help of its main ally, the US.
As the oil embargo came into force this week, the Iranian authorities showed mixed reactions to the economic sanctions, admitting the severity of the pressure but at the same time remaining adamant that they could survive.
Nuclear talks between Iran and the world's major powers were downgraded to a technical meeting in Istanbul this week after the two sides failed to make progress during last month's high-level negotiations in Moscow. Reports emerged on Wednesday that scientists from both sides who resumed talks on Tuesday in Istanbul had agreed to continue talking.
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