World's largest naval minesweeping effort kicks off in Gulf despite protests from Iran

uae_pipeline_strait_of_hormuz_iran_july_15_2012.jpg

Iranian Navy boats take part in maneuvers during the "Velayat-90" navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on January 3, 2012. The United Arab Emirates opened an oil pipeline on July 15, 2012 to bypass the Strait of Hormuz, in light of Iran threatening to block the passage.

Credit:

EBRAHIM NOROOZI

The biggest anti-mine naval operation in the world began in the Gulf Monday, watched by a suspicious Iran, according to Britain's Telegraph

The Islamic Republic on Tuesday said foreign nations should avoid any "provocations" in Gulf waters, comments that appeared directed at the international mine sweeping effort set to begin days later, reported Agence France-Press.

The operation, led by Britain, involves 41 countries and 35 ships and is set to last through May, said The Telegraph

Vice-admiral John Miller of US Fifth Fleet said Sunday that the exercise is "not about Iran," reported AFP. Nevertheless, Iran held its own mine sweeping operation last week and claimed to have developed a  “modern anti-mine” system, reported the Telegraph

Well, the more mines removed, the better. The Gulf serves as one of the world's most trafficked shipping lanes, and Miller told AFP their operation includes over 100 divers trained in explosives and 18 underwater drones.

The move comes several months after naval war games between the US and Iran over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran threatened to block access to the key oil route in revenge for international sanctions on its controversial nuclear program, which Western countries fear is being used to make a bomb. Iran denies this.