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Iranian military forces launched a series of “massive military drills” across nine provinces on Wednesday following an order by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to state media reports.
The drills, codenamed “Towards Jerusalem,” will continue over the coming days and throughout the rest of the year.
At least three battalions of Iran’s “fast reaction” Basij Force participated in the drills, which come as Western nations and Iran try to finalize a deal aimed at halting the country’s contested nuclear program.
A lieutenant commander of one of the volunteer fighting battalions said that the drills are meant to show off Iran’s ability to confront enemies at key points across the country, according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
“The main purpose for these war games is to retain preparedness and increase the combat capability of the forces to confront any possible move by domestic and foreign enemies,” Hossein Karimi, lieutenant commander of the Golestan’s Neynava Corps, was quoted as saying.
Additional fighting brigades will enter the war games over the next few days and at other points throughout the year, according to Karimi.
The “Towards Jerusalem” military drills began on the same day that Iran dispatched a destroyer, helicopter carrier warship, and heavy submarine to East Asian waters.
These military maneuvers also come just a day after back-to-back blasts at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killed 23 and wounded more than 100 others.
Iranian officials immediately blamed Israel for the attack, despite an al Qaeda-affiliated group having publicly claimed responsibility.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei threatened to crush Iran’s enemies during a Wednesday address to some 50,000 fighters.
Khamenei singled out Israel in particular, calling it a scourge on the region.
“Supporting the miserable Zionist regime … will be a source of defamation for the Europeans and of course the French nation should find a remedy for it,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by Fars.
He went on to tell “arrogant powers” in the world that “instead of threatening other countries,” they should “go and deal with your wretched economic conditions and think of you debts.”
While talks in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program continue, the country’s military forces have begun to unveil a host of new advanced weapons.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unveiled a domestically produced anti-cruise missile weapons system earlier this week.
The missile system was announced as part of a larger military display held by Iran’s “Ground Force’s Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization,” according to Fars.
The 23mm Gatling cannon is reportedly capable of firing 900 shots per minute at incoming missiles. It joins a series of other air defense systems recently deployed by Tehran.
The Iranian military also released an unmanned drone that is reportedly capable of flying for 30-hours straight and that would have the ability to enter Israeli air space.
Meanwhile, Iran and world powers inch closer to a nuclear deal that could allow Tehran to continue its nuclear enrichment program.
Tehran has called its ability to enrich a “redline” and new reports indicate that the issue is not even being considered in an interim deal, the details of which have been kept mostly quiet.
One of Iran’s lead negotiators reiterated that Iran would not sign any deal that seeks to halt its enrichment program.
“No agreement will be accepted in which enrichment doesn’t exist from the very beginning to the end,” Iranian negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying early Thursday.
Discussions on a draft final agreement are scheduled to take place all day Thursday.