Iran’s Provocative Naval Exercise

Motives behind recent show of force. 

Iran’s Provocative Naval Exercise: Motives and Implications


On February 25, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched its long-overdue “Great Prophet 9″ naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz by attacking a mockup of an American aircraft carrier off Larak Island. The spectacular display of firepower took place in a waterway that plays a strategic as well as psychological role in world politics and energy markets, and the Iranians have made no secret of their desire to be recognized as the dominant military power in the area and guarantor of the world’s energy security. Indeed, being the “policeman of the Persian Gulf” is not a new aspiration — Iran has been associated with that phrase since the 1970s.

Increasingly, however, Tehran has shown a willingness to combine real military capabilities and highly publicized drills with coercive rhetorical threats. Such rhetoric generally seems designed to boost Iran’s deterrence posture and reinforce its stature in the region. But the nature and timing of the latest exercise reveals much more about the Islamic Republic’s specific motivations, which are likely rooted in economic concerns, posturing over the nuclear negotiations, and internal political and military fissures.

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