China, Russia, Iran hold joint naval drills in Gulf of Oman

China, Russia and Iran will stage joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman this week, Beijing announces

  • The three countries are at varying degrees of odds with the U.S. and the West
  • Other countries will also take part, the ministry said without giving details

Naval forces from China, Iran and Russia are staging joint drills in the Gulf of Oman this week, China’s Defense Ministry has announced.

The three countries – all somewhat at varying degrees of odds with the United States and the West – said they would be taking part in the ‘Security Bond-2023’ exercises.

Other countries will also take part, the ministry said Tuesday without giving details. Iran, Pakistan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates all have coastline along the waterbody lying at the mouth of the strategic Persian Gulf.

‘This exercise will help deepen practical cooperation between the participating countries’ navies … and inject positive energy into regional peace and stability,’ the ministry statement said.

The exercises scheduled for Wednesday through Sunday come amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.

Warships sail in the Sea of Oman during the second day of joint Iran, Russia and China naval war games in December 2019. Similar scenes are expected over the ‘Security Bond-2023’ exercises

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting in Beijing, February 14, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022

The U.S. and its allies have condemned the invasion, imposed punishing economic sanctions on Russia and supplied Ukraine with defensive arms.

Iran and the U.S. have been adversaries since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979 and the taking of U.S. diplomats as hostages.

China has dispatched the guided missile destroyer Nanning to take part in the drills centered on search and rescue at sea and other non-combat missions.

The three countries held similar drills last year and in 2019, underscoring China’s growing military and political links with nations that have been largely shunned by the U.S. and its partners.

Prior to the drills last year, Iran’s Rear Admiral Mostafa Tajoldini said the purpose of the exercises is to ‘strengthen security and its foundations in the region’ and to ‘expand multilateral cooperation between the three countries’.

He claimed Iran, China and Russia wanted to ‘jointly support world peace, maritime security and create a maritime community with a common future’.

Last week, China hosted talks between Iran and chief Middle Eastern rival Saudi Arabia that resulted in an agreement between them Friday to restore full diplomatic relations after seven years of tensions.

The Chinese brokered deal announced Friday, stands to end a seven-year rupture in diplomatic ties between the two heavyweights that has stoked unrest across the Middle East.

Two warships sail while approaching to the Iran’s southeastern port city of Chahbahar, in the Gulf of Oman amid exercises in 2019

Tehran said on Monday it was prepared to take the new air of reconciliation even further – by also mending fences with the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

Like Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, Sunni-led Bahrain suspended formal relations with Shiite-majority Iran in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in response to the Saudi execution of a revered Shiite cleric.

While the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have long-standing military and political ties, relations have frayed over the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom’s leadership and cuts in production by the OPEC+ oil cartel that the administration said was helping Russia.

Tensions are currently high between China and the US over a range of issues, including China’s refusal to criticise Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine and continuing support for the Russian economy.

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