On the last day of a military drill in Iran on Wednesday that included the launching of dozens of short and medium-rage missiles, Gen. Ami Ali Hajizadeh of the Revolutionary Guards threatened to strike U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf as well as Israeli targets if Iran was attacked by the West.
According to the semiofficial Fars news agency, Hajizadeh, who heads the air-space division within the Revolutionary Guards, said that 35 U.S. bases were within range of Iran's missiles. "Measures have been taken so that we could destroy all these bases in the early minutes of an attack," Hajizadeh was quoted as saying.
Hajizadeh said the Guards also successfully test fired an anti-ship missile that could sink U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and that the shore-to-sea ballistic missile, called "Persian Gulf," had a range of 300 kilometers (180 miles). State TV showed video of the launching of a white missile that hit a huge target in Gulf waters.
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain, an island in the Gulf about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Iran, well within range of Iranian missiles.
In addition, Hajizadeh said that targets in Israel, which he referred to as "occupied territories," would also be easy for Iran to strike.
On Tuesday, Iran said it launched a variety of missiles during the desert drill, including Shahab-3 missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) that could reach Israel and southern Europe.
There was no immediate comment from Washington or Jerusalem concerning the latest Iranian threats and military drill.
The elite Revolutionary Guards, which conducted the war games in Iran's central desert, said that missiles launched during the drill were aimed at mock-ups of foreign military bases.
Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said on Wednesday that Iran's latest exercise displayed the strength and capabilities of the Islamic Republic's armed forces. "The war games sent a clear message to all those who wish to harm us that they will receive a powerful blow in response," Vahidi said.
A report by Reuters on Wednesday said it was not clear where Hajizadeh got his figures on U.S. bases in the region. According to the report, U.S. military facilities in the Middle East are located in Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Turkey, and it has around 10 bases further afield in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Despite the threats, military analysts say that Iranian officials tend to exaggerate their country's military capabilities and that Iran is no match for advanced U.S. weapons systems and military strength.
Iran has been increasing its level of threats against the U.S. and Israel, even before an EU embargo of Iranian crude oil began on Sunday. Although its large-scale military drill, dubbed "Great Prophet 7," began on Monday, a day after the EU sanctions took effect, officials in Tehran have said that a possible Iranian reaction to a European boycott of its oil would be to close the 45 kilometer-wide Straight of Hormuz, the most important waterway for the movement of oil to Western markets and the Far East.
Such threats, coupled with three failed rounds of talks with the West concerning Iran's nuclear program, have led the U.S. to bolster its forces in the Persian Gulf recently.
Israel and the U.S. have hinted at the possibility of military strikes against Iran if sanctions and diplomacy do not rein in Iran's nuclear development program. The West suspects Iran may be aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran, the world's 5th largest oil exporter, maintains that it is enriching uranium for nuclear fuel only to generate more energy for a rapidly growing population.
Meanwhile, Kenya announced on Wednesday that an oil deal with Iran was cancelled. The statement came after U.S. officials reportedly warned the African country that it could face penalties if it did not adhere to U.S. and European oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Kenya's Energy Permanent Secretary Patrick Nyoike said that cancellation of the deal with Iran was not related to the recent arrest of two Iranian nationals who are suspected of planning attacks on U.S. and Israeli targets in Mombasa.
Japan also announced it would not import Iranian crude oil this month, according to Reuters.