China-Russia-Iran naval drill announcement ‘shows support for Tehran’: Chinese expert

August 25, 2021 - 11:30

Russia has said it will hold joint maritime exercises with China and Iran in the coming months, in an announcement timed to show support from Moscow and Beijing to Tehran in its confrontation with Washington, the South China Morning Post quoted a Chinese analyst as saying.

Sun Qi, an international relations expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the China-Russia-Iran exercise “demonstrates support for Iran in international affairs”.

Russia’s ambassador to Tehran, Levan Dzhagaryan, said the drills would be held in the Persian Gulf in late 2021 or early 2022.

“The annual joint naval exercises CHIRU will be held in the Persian Gulf region,” Dzhagaryan was quoted by Russian Sputnik news agency as saying. “Russian, Iranian and Chinese warships are taking part in it. The main aim is to practice actions on ensuring international shipping safety and combating sea pirates.”

Sun said, “The announcement of the exercise by the three nations at this sensitive moment shows support by China and Russia to Iran, under the guise of ensuring international shipping safety and combating piracy.”

Russia’s announcement came after the Chinese and Russian armies completed a week-long exercise in northwestern China, focusing on counterterrorism operations but also boosting the interoperability of their militaries.

According to the South China Morning Post, in that drill, 10,000 troops from the Chinese army’s Western Theatre Command and Russia’s Eastern Military District tested their newest weapons.

It was the first time Russian troops had used armored assault vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles and other main battle equipment provided by the Chinese military, the newspaper added.

The drill was viewed as China and Russia preparing for a worsening security situation in Afghanistan. Beijing is worried about the possibility of Afghan turmoil spilling across the border into its sensitive Xinjiang region.

China, Russia and Iran have also offered support to each other at a time when all three have been subject to sanctions from Washington. In a telephone conversation last week with Ebrahim Raisi, his Iranian counterpart, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would support Iran’s “legitimate demands” in negotiations over its nuclear program.

Xi said Beijing was willing to enhance coordination with Tehran “on regional affairs to safeguard common interests and promote regional security and stability”.

As the Taliban takes over Afghanistan following its advance across the war-torn nation since the announcement of the withdrawal of American troops, China, Russia and Iran have blamed Washington for creating chaos in the region, the newspaper added.

The publication said it said Iran has also said it is on a path towards full membership of the China-led security group, officially called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

China, Russia, Iran military drills in Persian Gulf enhance regional security against external interference

The Global Times also said on Tuesday that maritime safety is of great importance for Tehran, Beijing and Moscow.

“It is vital for China, Russia and Iran to ensure the safety of international shipping,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, wrote in the Global Times.

 “Most of Russia's international trade is carried by cargo ships. Iran also relies on shipping for its oil exports. China's imports of oil and gas and some other foreign trade depend on shipping as well. To ensure the safety of shipping is to safeguard the economic security of the three countries. Therefore, it is normal to see China, Russia and Iran cooperate in terms of navy, especially their joint efforts against regional hegemony and sea pirates,” it said.

The newspaper also said when the news of the drills surfaced, the New York Post said, "The news comes as the U.S. struggles to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan."

Stated aim of the drills is ensuring international shipping safety and combating pirates

China, Russia and Iran as friendly partners are engaged in cooperation in various fields, and as regional countries, are keeping a close eye on the ever-changing Afghanistan situation, the Global Times said.

“The U.S. hasty withdrawal will inevitably lead to a crisis and uncertainty in Afghanistan. The three countries' cooperation in this regard will help maintain Afghanistan's domestic peace and prevent the spread of terrorist forces. But their main consideration for the joint military drills is to secure the safety of international shipping of the Persian Gulf, and has little to do with the Afghanistan situation,” the newspaper stated.

The Chinese newspaper said the planned military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf are politically important.

“The joint military exercises among China, Russia and Iran are of the political significance. This shows that China and Russia firmly support Iran in maintaining its legitimate foreign trade, especially via shipping. Beijing and Moscow support Tehran's reasonable demand concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue, and encourage Iran to strengthen its capabilities to guarantee regional security. This can prevent Western forces from deeply interfering in the regional affairs in the Persian Gulf and Iran's internal affairs. China and Russia may hope to boost Iran's military capabilities by virtue of the drills as well, so that Iran can effectively counter the threat from the Western countries,” the newspaper said in its opinion piece.

It added the New York Post mentioned that the drills will be conducted by "three of America's biggest adversaries."

However, the writer said, “Cooperation among China, Russia and Iran is centered on mutual benefits and win-win, rather than forming an alliance and engaging in confrontation. Take China and Iran. Iran can provide China the much-needed oil, and Iran hopes to increase its economic strength by expanding its energy exports.”   

President Raisi’s nominee for the post of foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, whose competence will certainly will be endorsed by the parliament on Thursday, has said the foreign policy priority of the new Iranian administration is neighbors and new emerging powers.

Defending his priority in the parliament on Sunday, Amir Abdollahian said his foreign policy will be “neighbor-based” and “Asia-based”. However, the former deputy foreign minister said he will follow a “balanced policy” in international relations.

Abolfazl Amoui, an MP sitting on the Parliament National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said the foreign minister in the new administration will have to implement the 25-year partnership with China and follow the strategic cooperation with Russia.

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