Iranian media reports on Sunday said Tehran will conduct a large-scale military exercise next month. The reports say the war games will coincide with what government officials are calling a deadline for the West to respond to its counteroffer to a nuclear-fuel deal.
Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan, commander of Iran's ground forces, said the military exercise will be conducted by Iran's army, along with units of the Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The general said the games are designed to improve "defensive capabilities," according to Press TV, the English-language, state-run media outlet.
On Saturday Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for the West to respond to Tehran's nuclear-fuel counteroffer. Iran has announced it would agree to swap the majority of its low-enriched uranium for higher enriched uranium, but in small batches and on Iranian soil. Iranian officials also said they may be willing to make the exchanges in Turkey.
The U.S. and its Western allies have already said they will not agree to the counterproposal. The US has said it will not agree to any deal other than the International Atomic Energy Agency proposal announced last fall. The IAEA deal calls for Iran to ship out the bulk of its uranium to Russia, where it would be enriched and shipped back to Iran. Iranian officials have rejected that deal, in spite of a U.S.-imposed deadline for Tehran to show progress in talks. That deadline expired on December 31st.
The Obama administration said it would seek stiff new United Naions-backed sanctions early this year if Iran did not accept the IAEA deal. Israel has previously said it will consider military action if it believes Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons.