Iran marks Army Day with motor parade amid virus curbs
Ceremony, attended by Iran’s top military officials, kept low-key affair owing to new wave of coronavirus
Iran marked its National Army Day on Sunday with a vehicular parade in the capital Tehran showcasing new weapon systems, drones and warplanes.
The ceremony, attended by the country's top military officials, was kept a low-key affair without traditional march-past of armed forces owing to the new wave of COVID-19.
The slogan for this year's parade was "Defenders of the Homeland, Companion of Healthcare,” indicating support to the frontline health care workers leading the fight against the coronavirus pandemic that has made a startling comeback in Iran in recent weeks.
According to officials, two newly developed indigenous air defense systems, Zolfaqar and Shahid Majid, which have the capability to destroy cruise missiles, were unveiled during the parade.
Zolfaqar is a low-altitude air defense system equipped with mechanized multi-launcher system while Shahid Majid consists of a dual-launcher and an electro-optical fire control system.
Both advanced air defense systems, according to military officials, are capable of hitting targets at low altitude, in particular cruise missiles.
The indigenous Iranian missile systems Sayyad 3 and 4, Talash, and Mersad were also displayed at the event.
In his message on the occasion, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the morale of the country's military forces is better than before, highlighting his administration’s efforts in equipping them with advanced weapons despite US sanctions.
Rouhani, whose term in office ends in four weeks, also stressed that the military must not get involved in political affairs.
The National Army Day, marked in Iran on April 18 every year, has traditionally been associated with massive street parades in the capital with participation of forces of all three branches of the army and exhibition of sophisticated weaponry.
However, in the last two years, owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, the event has been a low-key affair.
On Saturday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a statement calling on the armed forces to "enhance preparedness for operations as much as necessary."
"Today, the Army is at the scene and prepared to carry out operations. Keep enhancing this preparedness to the required level,” Khamenei told Iran's Army Chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi.
Iran has held a series of military drills in recent months in different parts of the country, exhibiting a range of weapons. It has also held joint drills with Russia and China.
This year's Army Day parade comes amid simmering tensions between Iran and the West in the wake of a recent cyberattack on the country's key nuclear facility in Natanz, which Iran blamed on Israel.
In response, Tehran announced acceleration of its nuclear enrichment process at the nuclear site, a move widely condemned by the international community.
Calls for retaliation have been growing in Iran, especially from the powerful conservative lobby. However, the Rouhani government says it will respond at an appropriate time.
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