Special operations units of the Iranian army and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Tuesday, May 14, began a two-day practice of offensive tactics, for the first time dropping large-scale forces from the air deep behind enemy lines. The many war games Iran has conducted until now focused on defenses of strategic and nuclear locations and repelling invaders. This drill displayed its aggressive capabilities. Codenamed Ja’far Tayyar, it was staged in remote Khorasan near the Afghan border, so as not to expose the commando tactics it employed.
In announcing the exercise, Gholam-Ali Gholamian, Dep. Commander for Operations for the IRGC Ground Forces, cagily called it another routine exercise for “maintaining the preparedness and promoting the combat capability of units stationed in the region.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that there was nothing routine about it. The units taking part were not stationed in the region but flown in especially.
Western intelligence sources observing the exercise report that its offensive nature was evident: Air transports coming in from the rest of the country dropped large numbers of paratroopers and special forces; Air Force fighter-bombers practiced intense bombardments of small targeted locations; and helicopters drilled rapid transfers of forces between points and air cover for the units reaching the ground.
Monday, the Persian Gulf rulers invited to Riyadh by Saudi King Abdullah for a summit on the Iranian threat dwelt long and hard on the exercise and concluded the threat had been exacerbated and that Tehran had more in store for them than closing the Strait of Hormuz to oil traffic in the event of war. They saw special forces being prepared by Iran to strike deep inside their countries up to and including their oil-producing regions.
The exercise also served the ongoing trade of war signals between Washington and Tehran. Staging a special forces exercise not far from the US military presence in Afghanistan was meant as a rejoinder to US-led special forces maneuver taking place in Jordan across the border with Syria with the participation of 17 nations.
Iranian and Syrian media made much of the fact that the US-led war game was named Eager Lion 12 as a deliberate insult to Bashar Assad, whose name is the Arabic for Lion.