image Photo: Reuters

“New triangle of power” Iran, China & Russia hold joint naval drills in Indian Ocean

Iran, China and Russia began joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman today, in what Moscow hailed as an unprecedented exercise in naval cooperation and training.

Waters around Iran have become a focus for international tensions, with the United States exerting pressure for the severance of Iranian crude oil sales and other trade ties.

In what it called “the new triangle of power in the sea,” Iranian state television broadcast footage of what it identified as the arrival of a Russian warship at Chabahar Port in southern Iran, saying the Chinese would be participating soon.

The Islamic Republic’s flotilla Admiral Gholamreza Tahani said “The message of this exercise is peace, friendship and lasting security through cooperation and unity… and its result will be to show that Iran cannot be isolated,” adding that both Iran’s navy and its Revolutionary Guards participating. “The aim of this drill is to bolster security of international maritime commerce, combating piracy and terrorism and sharing information… and experience,” Admiral Tahani said, underscoring that his nation’s “hosting these powers shows that our relations have reached a meaningful point and may have an international impact.”

The drill comes amid rising hostilities between Tehran and Washington, and is widely seen as a response to recent maneuvers the United States conducted with its regional ally Saudi Arabia, in which China also participated. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a U.S.-led naval mission following a September attack on Saudi oil facilities and several attacks on international merchant vessels, including Saudi tankers, last May, June and July; for which Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied all of the accusations.

The Gulf of Oman is a particularly strategic waterway as it is connected to the Strait of Hormuz – through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes and which in turn connects to the Gulf.

Beijing announced yesterday that it would be deploying a guided missile destroyer to take part in the four-day drills with Iran and Russia. A Chinese defense ministry spokesman downplayed the exercise, describing it as a “normal military exchange” between the three armed forces, while stressing that “It is not necessarily connected with the regional situation.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced today that it a frigate, a tanker and a rescue tugboat from its Baltic Fleet will be participating in the drills, saying it was the first time that such an exercise is being conducted in such a format.

China maintains close diplomatic, trade and energy ties with Iran, and holds friendly bilateral relations with Russia. Despite hostilities between Tehran and Riyadh, both Moscow and Beijing also have good relations with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Israel is closely monitoring the unprecedented trilateral drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. Just two days ago in his first major speech, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi remarked that the Jewish State stands as a lone force against regional aggression by Iran and its proxies. He said the Israeli military is operating openly, covertly and clandestinely throughout the region to thwart Iran’s malign ambitions, “even at the risk of war.”