France, UAE and Qatar will take part in large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf next week. France had recently announced that it would establish a permanent military base in the UAE. Next week’s war games will be a manifestation of the growing French military presence near Iran.
France will deploy 1,500 personnel, two frigates and eight Mirage fighter jets to the joint maneuvers. The extent of UAE and Qatari participation in the war games has not been announced.
Iran has strongly criticized as “unfriendly” the French move to build a military base across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran.
"From Feb. 23 to March 5, 2008, France will hold its first war games in the Persian Gulf. Dubbed "Gulf Shield 01," the exercise will take place in UAE territory and international waters near the Strait of Hormuz. It will involve 1,500 French, 2,500 Emirate, and 1,300 Qatari personnel on land, sea, and air. The exercise, led by French Vice Admiral Jacques Mazars, will involve six warships (including a French aircraft carrier), plus 40 aircraft, and dozens of armored vehicles. It will include simulated Iranian attacks on oil platforms."--(http://www.wakeupfromyourslumber.com/node/5577)
Nader, I find the war scenario, for which the exercise is based, to be pretty far fetched. Is the French expectation an Iranian amphibious invasion on UAE positions? Pretty unlikely. In the event that Iran ever launched hostilities against the UAE, it would be far more effective to utilize its ballistic and cruise missile assets, or even its air force. The land route from Iran to the UAE is blocked by the might of the United States armed forces. Make no mistake about it, the potential role of a French aircraft carrier is related to attack.
The French were active participants against Iran during the Imposed War (Iran-Iraq War). They provided Sadaam's air force with French fighter and attack planes, training and related munitions. The French also used the war to test their latest air force weaponry against the IRIAF, such as the Matra Super 530D air-to-air missile. Correspondingly, they were also able to test related air-to-air fighter tactics under conditions of actual combat.
Thought you might be interested. Sean O'Connor has recently posted a piece on Iran's new hardened missile silos near Tabriz, Iran. It includes satellite imagery of the actual facility.
Mark, although the French have officially termed the war games as “defensive” exercise, the naval assets used, as you have pointed out, clearly point to an offensive exercise. Adm. Mazars is also using more than 5,000 troops, probably to “occupy” the three islands.
French make serious move into Gulf
By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent, BBC News
15 Jan 2008
....President Sarkozy appears willing to accept that this exposes France to the risks involved in such a sensitive area, highlighted by the confrontation between Iranian speedboats and US naval ships recently. There is also a dispute between Abu Dhabi and Iran over three small islands in the Strait of Hormuz. The president said the base was agreed [to] at the request of the Emirates.
....France has traditionally had a close relationship with Abu Dhabi. It has sold Mirage jet fighters and AMX-30 tanks to the Emirate and has had a defence agreement with it (mainly dealing with the support of arms contracts) since 1995.
This French success in Abu Dhabi (and Qatar) has for years irritated the British, who regarded themselves as the mentors of the rulers of the lower Gulf. The British formed them into the Trucial States before leaving the Gulf in 1971. The United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the largest, was established subsequently.
According to British sources, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, has never got on well with the British for reasons British diplomats do not fully understand. However, his antipathy appears well-established.
[If the British would read the previous paragraph closely they might get a hint of why they're not particularly well-liked.]
This allowed the French to make the running and they have done so.
This might be related to the hard rock excavation work required for the missile silos Mark P. mentioned or nearby support facilities.
Iran says construction work caused blast in Tabriz
25 Feb 2008
TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian official said on Monday construction work caused a blast in the northwestern city of Tabriz, but no casualties were reported.
"The workers were blasting the Einali mountain to build a road," an official in the Tabriz governor's office told Reuters by telephone.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported earlier that an explosion shook Tabriz shortly after mid-day.
The official, who asked not to be named, said there were no casualties.
Tabriz is the capital of Iran's Northeastern Azerbaijan province.
Iran often blames blasts in outlying provinces on foreign agents. The majority of the population in Tabriz are Azeris and speak a language closely related to Turkish. They make up about 25 percent of the population in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
France and Gulf allies in war games amid Iran tensions
Monday, 25 Feb 2008
DUBAI (Reuters) - Forces from France, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar began their first joint war games on Monday in the Gulf amid lingering tensions between Iran and the West.
The "Gulf Shield 01" exercises took place on UAE territory and in international waters near key oil shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, with combined operations to include mock attacks on a "hostile" island, the French military said.
"The main scenario involves a large fictitious island in the Gulf that threatens the UAE and Qatar, so we intervene in the framework of defence pacts to protect these two countries," Lieutenant-Colonel Thierry Fusalba told Reuters.
The exercises last until March 5 and involve 1,500 French, 2,500 UAE, and 1,300 Qatari troops operating on land, at sea, and in the air. Around a half dozen warships, 40 aircraft, and dozens of armoured vehicles are involved.
Mark K; thanks for the entries.
On Tabriz explosion, the officials were quoted by Iranian news agency as saying that:
1. The huge explosion was as a result of “detonation” of explosives and munitions.
2. The explosion took place at an IRGC base outside Tabriz.
On French military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf, all the signs point to an offensive exercise with dual goals of (a) keeping the Strait of Hormuz choke point open, and (b) “occupying the three disputed island in the area.
That's interesting Nader. Sounds like possible sabotage or the work of foreign special forces. It's somewhat surprising that the Iranians would word their official press release in such a way to give that impression.
On the other hand it's possible that the "detonation" was intentional or the result of excavation work but they used the event as an opportunity to suggest they're being targeted for covert attack.
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