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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard on Thursday started large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state television reported. Iran has been holding military maneuvers in the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz annually since 2006 to show off its military capabilities. The last four editions of the games were held in the summer, but there has been no official explanation why they were brought forward this year. The war games have routinely heightened tension in the region, but they have more recently taken added significance as the standoff between the West and Tehran over Iran's nuclear program grows deeper.
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said "new weapons" would be test-fired in the war games, but did not give any details. Tehran was angered by President Barack Obama's announcement this month of a new U.S. nuclear policy in which he pledged America would not use atomic weapons against nations that do not have them. Iran and North Korea were pointedly excluded from the non-use pledge, and Iranian leaders took that as an implicit threat. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Wednesday that the U.S. "nuclear threat" is a "Stigma in the U.S. political history," saying Iranians will not allow the U.S to dominate the country. Iran's archenemy, Israel, has not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.