image Photo: Reuters

Iran, Russia, China begin joint naval drill

The “2022 Marine Security Belt” exercise will take place in the northern Indian Ocean, announced an Iranian armed forces official.

By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner

Speaking to the semi-official ISNA news agency, Iranian Rear Admiral Mostafa Tajoldini pointed out that this is the 3rd joint naval drill between the three countries since 2019. He also underscored that the defense cooperation between Tehran, Moscow and Beijing will be continued in the future.

“The purpose of this drill is to strengthen security and its foundations in the region, and to expand multilateral cooperation between the three countries to jointly support world peace, maritime security and create a maritime community with a common future,” he said.

Both of Iran’s maritime forces are participating in the drill, namely the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (NEDAJA) warfare service and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN).

Adm. Tajoldini told state television that 11 Iranian vessels, 3 Russian ships and 2 Chinese vessels participated in the exercise, in addition to IRGCN helicopters and smaller ships.

The Chinese Navy said in a statement that it sent a missile destroyer, supply ship, shipborne helicopters and 40 marines to take part in the maneuvers, which Iranian state media said would be held in a 17,000 square kilometer range.

The drill will include “joint tactical maneuvering and practiced artillery fire at a naval target,” “search-and-rescue missions at sea” as well as “inspection and liberation” of hijacked ships, said the Russian Defense Ministry, which reportedly deployed a missile cruiser, a large anti-submarine warfare ship and a large sea tanker to participate in the drill.

In addition to the exercise with Iran and China, yesterday Russia announced the holding of a massive naval exercise involving more than 140 warships and 60 aircraft in the Black and Mediterranean Seas and the northeastern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans until February.

Since coming to office last June, Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi has pursued a “look east” policy to deepen ties with both Russia and China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Iranian counterpart for talks in Moscow on Wednesday for discussions focused on bolstering bilateral ties, Topical regional and international issues with the focus on Iran’s nuclear program.

“We closely cooperate in the international arena,” said Putin during public remarks at the Kremlin, claiming that Russian and Iranian “efforts largely helped the Syrian government overcome the threats linked with international terrorism.” He added that both sides are also “concerned about the situation that is taking shape in Afghanistan.”

Raisi agreed that Iran has had “very good experience in cooperating with the Russian Federation in Syria. We were fighting terrorism in the region, in the Syrian Arab Republic through a concerted effort. We can use this positive experience in many other areas.”

The summit occurred as Russia has been working with China, Britain, France and Germany mediate indirect talks in Vienna between the United States and Iran to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Finally, it is very important for me to know your position on the JCPOA,” President Putin said to Raisi during the meeting, which is the first between the pair since the Iranian President assumed office in August 2021.

Both leaders expressed interest in deepening trade and economic relations between their nations.

“I would like to say that in the current, exceptional conditions when unilateral actions by the West, including the US are being confronted, we can create synergy in our cooperation,” said Raisi in an open display of animosity toward the West.

He also revealed that Iran has presented the draft of a new “document on bilateral strategic cooperation” that could “determine our future relations for the next 20 years,” and would “certainly determine the long-term prospects for strategic cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation.”

In related developments, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian visited China last week to discuss the 25-year cooperation agreement signed by the two countries.

in March 2021, Beijing and Tehran signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership” agreement to boost economic and political relations. Last September, Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is a central Asian security body led by Russia and China.

Leading Iranian Muslim leader Seyyed Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard today hailed the Raisi-Putin summit and multilateral naval drill during Islamic Friday prayers in Tehran, reported that Mehr News Agency, owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization (IIDO).