DUBAI: Warped priorities in Iran’s military policy contributed to the deaths of 19 sailors in a “friendly fire” incident in the Gulf of Oman, analysts told Arab News on Monday.
One Iranian warship accidentally struck another with a missile during an exercise on Sunday, Iran’s navy admitted.
The frigate Jamaran fired at a training target released by a support ship, the Konarak, but the support ship stayed too close to the target and was hit. Along with the 19 dead, 15 sailors were injured.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, told Arab News it was important to note that the incident involved the regular Iranian Navy, and not naval forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“The IRGC is different in capability and capacity,” Karasik said. “This was a training exercise for the Iranian Navy, and the friendly fire attack is illustrative of training issues. It’s about manpower, training time and equipment.
“Instead of focusing on a capable military that can protect the Iranian state, the regime chooses to focus on militia activity, drones, and the development of ballistic and cruise missiles.”
Sunday’s incident took place at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the US since 2018, when the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, and Washington reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Animosity deepened in early January when a US drone strike in Baghdad killed top Iranian warlord Qassem Soleimani. Iran retaliated on Jan. 8 by firing missiles at US military bases in Iraq. Later that day, IRGC forces shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 people aboard, in what the military later admitted was a mistake.
Many of those killed aboard the airliner were Iranian and postings on social media on Monday drew comparisons between the two incidents.
“Until when does the Islamic Republic want to play with the lives of Iranians?” Sedighe Taheri wrote on Twitter.