Features, Messages, Implications of Chinese-Russian-Iranian Joint Naval Drill

Strategic Council Online: An expert on international security affairs pointing to a joint naval exercise between Iran, Russia, and China in the north of the Indian Ocean and the Oman Sea said: This combination could upset the power equation in the region and, before anything, weaken the American unilateralist axis and strengthen the multilateral camp in the region.

Speaking to the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations on the impact of this joint international exercise, Ali Jafari said: “The joint drill dubbed “naval security belt” is a milestone in the political and security fields in the region and around the world.”

 

Features of Iran-China-Russia Joint Exercises

Speaking about the prominent features of the naval drill, he said: “It is the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran has held a joint exercise with the two major naval powers at this level. Secondly, the Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world, and the north of this ocean is one of the strategic regions of the world, located between the three major strategic straits, the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait known as the golden triangle. The Persian Gulf is also one of the leading energy spots in the world, which is of particular importance because of its significant share in the oil supply to many countries.

The author of the book “NATO in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, Iran’s National Security and Interests” explains the third feature of the exercise: “This extraordinary exercise is conducted under the command of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which means the high level of political and security goals and commonalities of the three countries and the extent of trust China and Russia as two maritime powers have in Iran’s power and position in the region.

Jafari added: Under these circumstances, the Islamic Republic of Iran seems to have made accomplishments in recent years in boosting its naval capability and performance and developing military and security partnerships with influential powers such as China and Russia, so that Iran officially joins the rank of naval powers. The range of the drill is about 17,000 square meters and Iran plays a pivotal role in this large drill.

“The presence of the United States and some trans-regional countries in the Persian Gulf is not new,” he said, referring to the effects of the exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea in light of efforts by some countries to establish a Persian Gulf Naval Alliance. Even the Persian Gulf states opened the way to the region of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004 through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and have so far implemented joint programs. But the joint Iran-China-Russia military exercises take place at a time that tensions in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz have risen since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Agreement also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran Will Not Be Isolated

He added: After the Manama Summit, the United States tried to form a so-called naval security coalition in the Persian Gulf, while the Islamic Republic of Iran has offered to guarantee maritime security by inviting the Persian Gulf states to join the Hormuz Peace Plan, but they did not think Iran would open the way for two other major powers, China and Russia, to be present near the Persian Gulf. This means that Iran has expanded its maritime borders and will not be isolated along the way.

Three Nation Front Can Disrupt Regional Power Equation

“However, it is the first time that a partial and incomplete coalition led by the US and another front with participation of Iran, Russia and China maintain presence in the region,” Jafari added. This combination could upset the power equation in the region, but most of all it would weaken the unilateralist American axis and strengthen Iran’s position in the region.

 

Creating Certain Naval Coalitions Will Not Affect Iran’s Active Engagement in Naval Security

The author and researcher of international security issues noted that the Persian Gulf Arab states need to rethink their regional policies because Iran has shown that building a coalition and increasing Iranophobia will not deter Tehran’s active involvement in maritime security and the United States cannot create security in the region. American records also show that it is only after its interests and is not a friend of the Arab countries.

He added: Although some Persian Gulf Arab states appear to be reviewing their stressful behaviors and policies due to some unprofessional pursuits in recent years, they must understand they can play a positive and effective part in providing Persian Gulf security after they rethink their approach to trans-regional countries and following the endogenous security mechanisms in the Persian Gulf.

 

Political and Military Messages of Naval Exercises

The international security expert said in connection with the messages of the joint exercises at regional and global levels: “Although the stated objectives of the exercise are quoted by Iranian military authorities to be enhancing maritime trade security, countering piracy and exchanging maritime rescue experiences but this exercise has significant messages in the two military and political fields.

The author of the book “NATO in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, Iran’s National Security and Interests” believes the most important message of this exercise in the military field is boosting Iran’s military capabilities at the level of operational cooperation with major naval powers and taking command of the operations in a wide range of strategic regional and global waters. He said the geographic expansion of the naval mission to provide security is another message of the drills in the military and security dimensions.

Describing the political messages of the exercise, he said: “The most important message of the drills is to the United States and its regional affiliates, which underlines Iran’s initiative and self-confidence in providing maritime security, and extending it thousands of kilometers beyond territorial geography and not restricting naval security to the Persian Gulf.

 

Iran’s Capability in Cooperation and Synergy with Major Naval Powers

Jafari said the exercise also had the message that Iran could forge cooperation and synergy with major naval powers if necessary and that the Persian Gulf should be secured by regional countries through regional security mechanisms. Most importantly, this exercise underlined the importance of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s central position and role in securing the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea.

Joint Exercises Show How Friendly the Three Countries Are

“The joint exercise shows the level of friendship of Russia, China and Iran,” said the analyst, adding that it could lead to more cooperation between the three countries. All three countries have relatively good trade relations. There are also common interests in foreign policy. On the other hand, all the three countries have differences with the US in trade, security and political spheres proving that they are increasingly keen to work together to demonstrate their security capabilities.

“If we look at the new policies of Western countries and even Western security treaties such as NATO, we will see that all the three countries – Iran, Russia and China – are among the recognized threats; for example, in the recent NATO summit in London they made it clear that Iran is a threat; they used similar words to describe cyber and military capabilities of China and Russia.

All this led China and Russia to join a joint exercise under the command of Iran, just in the area where the United States claimed to form an international coalition seeking to cripple the Islamic Republic in the sea and the Persian Gulf. The guest countries, China and Russia, have sent advanced and new vessels to the area to carry out the exercise.

 

Decline of US Unilateralism in Security and Military Areas on Condition of Cooperation

He added that China, despite certain considerations towards Arab countries, was willing to participate in conducting the joint naval maneuvers and Russia for the first time was able to hold a joint naval maneuver in an area far from home. If the process of extensive military and security cooperation between Russia, China and Iran continues, especially if other countries are added to the front, it can be said that US unilateralism in the security and military spheres will be on the decline and the United States will have no choice but to delegate the task of securing the Persian Gulf to the regional states. This is the most important message of the joint Iranian, Russian and Chinese military exercises.

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