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Iran military drills begin despite tensions over attack on US drone

Iran has launched major military drills less than a week after Iranian warplanes fired on a US drone.

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Iranian students show their palms which read in Persian, "Crazy of martyrdom" (bottom, L) and "Nuclear scientist" (bottom R) outside the former US embassy in Tehran on November 2, 2012, during a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of seizure of the US embassy which saw Islamist students hold 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran has launched major military drills less than a week after Iranian warplanes fired on a US drone. 

The Iranian Army and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) began the war games in Eastern Iran.

According to the Associated Press, the official IRNA news agency quoted Gen. Farzad Esmaili, head of Iran’s air defense headquarters, as saying that the exercises will cover nearly the entire eastern half of the country — 330,000 square miles according to Reuters.

According to the Tehran Times, the seven-day maneuvers — dubbed "Modafe''an-e Aseman-e Velayat 4" or "Defenders of Velayat Skies 4" — will involve 8,000 Iranian military personnel.

It added that air defense aircraft, fighter jets and transport planes would be tested, along with "offensive and defensive electronic warfare equipment" and drones.  

Reuters cited a report in Iran's English-language Press TV quoting Shahrokh Shahram, the spokesman for the exercises, as saying:

"These drills convey a message of peace and security to regional countries. At the same time they send out a strong warning to those threatening Iran."

Meanwhile, a senior Iranian lawmaker praised the attack on the US drone, which came amid tensions with western powers over Iran's nuclear program.

The US and EU have imposed sanctions on Iran, which they fear is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear work is research and purely for peaceful purposes.

Both the United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran, if diplomacy fails to resolve the row.

Fars quoted National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Esmayeel Kosari as saying that it displayed the power of the Iranian military forces.

"The IRGC forces' warning shots to the US spy drone indicate the Armed Forces' might and power in defending the country and people. When the country's territory is invaded by the western armies, it is the responsibility of the Islamic Iran's Armed Forces to defend the country powerfully and in this special case, the IRGC defended the Islamic Iran's interests mightily."  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iran/121112/iran-military-drills-iranian-tehran-us-drone