China, Russia, and Iran launched a four-day joint military exercise in the Indian Ocean and Oman Gulf on Friday in the midst of ongoing friction between Tehran and Washington in the economically important region.
The Gulf of Oman was a focal point of geopolitical tensions in 2019, following an unidentified party attacking two oil tankers in the narrow strait in June. The US blamed the attack on Iran, but the allegations were denied by Tehran.
Iran detained for two months a British oil tanker, the Stena Impero. The warships were planning to leave Iran’s Chabahar port in the Gulf of Oman before being deployed across northern Indian Ocean countries,
Second Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani said earlier, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV. Tahani said the exercise will span 17,000 square kilometers and consist of “various military drills,” including target practice and saving ships from assaults and fires. This exercise aims to improve the security of international maritime trade, counter maritime piracy and terrorism, share knowledge on rescue operations and technical and tactical expertise,’ said Tahani.
The joint exercises also act as a warning to the world that Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing’s ties have reached a “meaningful” point, Tahani said.
Wu Qian, the spokesman for the defense of Beijing, said Thursday that the exercise was a “normal military interaction” between the three armed forces, in accordance with international law and custom.
“The forthcoming naval drills seek to strengthen the interaction and coordination between the three countries ‘ navies and demonstrate the clear will and capacities of the three sides to jointly preserve world peace and maritime security, while effectively developing a shared future maritime culture,” he said.
Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi said the establishment of protection in the Indian Ocean and the Oman Sea was “important and vital.”
“The Indian Ocean and the Oman Sea are among the most important trade routes in the world, and many countries are moving in the areas, and thus it is important and vital to developing defense,” Shekarchi said.
The Oman Gulf leads to the Hormuz Strait, through which about 30% of the world’s seaborne crude oil flows. Trump targeted Iran, Russia, and the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad in a Twitter post on Thursday, warning the three countries against military action in Syria. “Russia, Assad, and Iran kidnap or destroy thousands of innocent civilians in the Idlib Province on their way to death. Don’t do it!” Trump wrote.