Military exercise displays power and solidarity between the three countries

Iran, Russia, China stage joint naval drill in Sea of Oman

December 27, 2019 - 14:33

CHABAHAR PORT - Naval forces of Iran, Russia and China kicked off a large-scale maritime exercise in the northern part of the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman on Friday morning.

The joint military exercise is viewed by some analysts as a show of power and solidarity between Iran and the great powers of China and Russia in the face of pressure by Washington.

Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani, the deputy commander of the Iranian Navy, said the exercise will cover 17,000 square kilometers and consist of "various tactical exercises," which include target practice and rescuing ships from assaults and fires.

The naval drill, codenamed “Marine Security Belt”, will last for four days.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi said it was "important and vital" that security was established in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman.

"The Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman are among the world's key trade routes and many countries commute in the (two) regions and therefore establishing security there is important and vital," Shekarchi stated.

Shekarchi added that the military exercises would be aimed at increasing power and experience to ensure international trade security in the region.

The Sea of Oman is a particularly sensitive waterway as it connects to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes and which in turn connects to the Persian Gulf.

Zarif says Iran showing commitment to secure vital waterways with partners

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that the joint military exercises show that Iran and its partners are committed to secure vital waterways.

“Our joint military drills in Oman Sea/Indian Ocean w/ our Russian & Chinese partners make clear our broader commitment to secure vital waterways,” Zarif tweeted.

Zarif added that Iran has been insisting that it is ready to work with its neighbors on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf to secure maritime trade in the region based on the Hormuz peace initiative.

“Iran has long stated its readiness to work w/our neighbors to secure the Persian Gulf. #HOPE-Hormuz Peace Endeavour-is on the table right now.”

Iran’s largest naval drill with world powers since 1979

“Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, it is the first time that the country has staged such a large-scale drill participated with two huge naval powers in the world,” Tahani stated.

He said certainly those countries that share security, economic, political, and defense interests try to restore collective security in the region together. 

“Reinvigoration of international maritime trade, countering piracy, exchange of information and experiences in various fields including maritime rescue and relief are among the main objectives of the drill,” Tahani added.

Peace, friendship, security among messages of trilateral drill 

Rear Admiral Tahani said peace, friendship and sustainable security under collective unity and cooperation are the main messages of the current naval drill. 

“The message of this exercise is peace, friendship and lasting security through cooperation and unity … and its effect will be to show that Iran cannot be isolated.” 

Iran is not isolable 

“Iran is not isolatable and this is one the most important achievements of the current war game,” Tahani underlined, adding that the relationship between Iran, Russia and China has reached to a “meaningful level” which will continue next years too.

Recently, the U.S. has taken a quasi-warlike posture against Iran and stepped up its provocative military moves in the Middle East, among them the June 20 incursion of an American spy drone into the Iranian airspace.   

 China has sent a guided-missile destroyer to the drill

According to the New York Times, China said on Thursday it was sending a guided-missile destroyer to the four-day drills, which it called a "normal military exchange" between the three armed forces.

"It is not necessarily connected with the regional situation," a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said.

China has close diplomatic, trade and energy ties with Iran, which has friendly ties with Russia.

The military exercise comes at a time that the United States is resorting to every ploy to pressure Iran and isolate it in the world. 

Russian Baltic Fleet’s warships attend the drill 

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Friday it had sent three ships from its Baltic Fleet - a frigate, a tanker, and a rescue tug boat - to take part in the drills, Red Star, the official newspaper of Russia's armed forces, reported.

The ministry was cited as saying that it was the first time that such drills were being held in such a format.

The Times of Israel also reported that the drill is the first such trilateral exercise as Tehran seeks to boost military cooperation with Beijing and Moscow amid unprecedented economic sanctions from Washington.

The drill is in response of U.S. maneuvers in region

The Navy Times website also reacted to the drill, reporting that the drill is seen as a response to recent U.S. maneuvers with its regional ally Saudi Arabia.

The drill conveying a goodwill gesture 

Global Time quoted Wu Qian, spokesperson of the Chinese Defense Ministry, as saying that the exercise aims to deepen the cooperation between the navies of the three countries, and conveys a goodwill gesture.

He further said that the joint exercise will also exhibit China's ability to maintain world peace and maritime security.

Chinese military expert: The drill sends a message to Washington 

In the meantime, Global Times cited Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator, as saying that the Sea of Oman is a sensitive place and also vital to global energy transport, and its situation “could largely affect China's economy and security”.

Song believes the joint drill will de-escalate the regional tension as two influential countries are standing together to safeguard peace and stability of the Persian Gulf. "Such a gesture urges the U.S. not to launch military actions unilaterally or put more pressure on Iran," he said. 

“The move sent a clear signal to the U.S.: the Iran issue should be addressed through negotiations based on the previous deal rather than military actions. The U.S. should stop fanning the flames,” Song said.

Strengthening military cooperation through such exercises will also help bolster China's own economy, energy, and national security, besides safeguarding the regional transportation and energy channels, Song told the Global Times on Thursday, noting it is important for China to boost its overseas escort strategy. 

Such a drill also improves the capabilities of the Chinese Liberation Army (PLA) in counter-terrorism, anti-pirate and humanitarian missions, Song said. 

The naval exercise unique, unprecedented  

Also, the Associated Press reported that the trilateral drill is the first of its kind at a time when Iran is facing unprecedented sanctions from the U.S.

The joint drills are likely to be perceived as provocative by Washington. 

Tensions have been running high between Tehran and Washington since last year, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

According to the Sputnik, the United States is monitoring the joint naval drills, Pentagon spokesperson Sean Robertson said on Thursday.

"We are aware of the multilateral exercise being conducted between Iran, China, and Russia in the Arabian Sea", Robertson said. "We are monitoring it and will continue to work with our partners and allies to ensure freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in international waterways".


MJ/PA

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