Iran on Friday began military drills in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway connecting the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean and a vital route for oil shipments in the region.

The “Zolfaqar-1401” maneuvers are part of the Tehran regime’s annual exercises and will include grand, aerial, and naval forces, according to the Washington Times. Said drills come at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the western powers amid the Islamic Republic’s supplying of drones to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, crackdowns on internal protests, and pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.

State media asserted that the drills would demonstrate Iranian strength in the face of western sanctions and reiterated government demands for western withdrawal from the Middle East. “The commander stressed that the exit of ‘extra-regional countries,’ including the U.S. and the U.K., from the region will ensure stability,” state media reported. “History has proved that the ultra-regional players are after war and insecurity.”

Tehran has been battling internal protests following the death of 22-year-old Masha Amini while in police custody for not wearing a hijab. At least 488 individuals have been killed in government crackdowns.

The Biden administration previously attempted to pursue a nuclear agreement with the Islamic regime, but has since conceded that such negotiations had hit a standstill amid the government’s illicit activities.

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