TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards inaugurated a new naval base on Sunday to reinforce Tehran's authority over three Persian Gulf islands also claimed by the neighboring United Arab Emirates, Iranian state TV reported.
The base near the Iranian mainland's southern port of Bandar-e Lengeh some 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) south of Tehran is the Guards' fifth in the Gulf. The Guards' navy chief Gen. Ali Fadavi said missile and marine units have been deployed there.
It lies north of the Iranian-controlled islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb that dominate the approach to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway through which about one-fifth of the world's oil supply passes.
The Revolutionary Guard and the U.S. Navy both patrol the narrow waterway, which Iran had threatened to choke off in retaliation for tougher Western sanctions over its suspect nuclear program.
Iran took control of the Persian Gulf islands in 1971, after British forces left the region. Since 1992, the UAE has repeatedly claimed the islands and last month at the U.N. General Assembly, it said Iran's "occupation" violates international law.
In April, a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the islands inflamed the dispute over the territories and prompted an outcry by UAE and its Arab allies. Tehran later vowed to develop the islands through tourism and other industries, though little has been reported on that since the visit. During the inauguration of the base, Guards chief Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari expressed the hope that new base could support economic development of the islands.