For the first time since the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has conducted a joint drill with China and Russia, the world’s two major naval powers. The drill began with the floating units of the three countries from the Port of Chabahar and spread over the northern Indian Ocean to an area of 17,000 square kilometers. The northern Indian Ocean is one of the strategic regions of the world, as it is shaped between three major straits. Bab al-Mandeb, Malacca, and Hormuz are the three straits that form the outline of this golden triangle.
Considering the international developments associated with the Persian Gulf and Iran the presence of these three countries in the military exercise in this geographical area was an important geopolitical event with special achievements.
Although defense officials in all three countries said the drill was just normal, many regional and international analysts and media described the move clear and significant support from Beijing and Moscow for Iran and a clear message to the US and its regional allies to avoid escalating tensions and militarization in the region.
Joint Understanding of Authorities in the Three Countries of Possible Threats
While separate efforts by the United States and Europe to forge a maritime alliance aimed at supporting safe transport in the region have not yielded tangible results, the coordinated presence of China, Russia and Iran illustrate a shared understanding among the leaders of these three countries of possible threats. The three powers appear to be working to defend their shared interests against the provocative presence of trans-regional countries, particularly the United States, and to exploit indigenous capacities to create deterrence, security, and stability.
New Security Strategies Take Shape in the Region
Certainly, the geopolitical alignment of Russia, Iran and China and application of defense diplomacy at this level represents a step towards a multipolar world order in the future and represents the emergence of new security strategies in the region.
In addition to capacity building to strengthen operational and tactical coordination in the event of threats, it is a symbol of the balance of power in the region, as Russia, China and Iran consider maintaining regional stability and security an important part of their individual and collective interests and security and are dependent on security of marine routes and transportation routes in the region.
Acknowledging the Role & Importance of Iranian Power in Military and Maritime Domains of the Region
While the United States seeks to insinuate a multipolar world order with a variety of scenarios, conducting this joint drill with two international powers demonstrates admission of Iran’s role and importance as a powerful nation in the military and maritime region, whose cooperation is imperative in serving interests.
During the exercise, the Iranian Foreign Minister said that the joint action reflects the fact that the Islamic Republic is ready to cooperate in safeguarding the safety and freedom of shipping for all in Hormuz international waterway and that there are other countries among the major world powers that oppose provocative policies in the region.
According to Deputy Coordinator of the Army, Habibollah Sayari, the three navies worked on methods and approaches that would enable future maneuvers. “This joint maneuver with China and Russia is just the beginning of our cooperation and this will continue. We have the ability to engage with various countries around the world in establishing security in the region.
Despite the positions of the three countries’ officials that the exercise was aimed at providing security for the region and making necessary coordination in this regard, its political messages attracted the most international attention and were widely reflected in the international media.
Sputnik quoted Pentagon Spokesman Sean Robertson that the US is monitoring the naval drills and will cooperate with allies to ensure the freedom of navigation. Meanwhile, Acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Moldy said Iran could carry out “provocative actions” in the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere in that region in the future despite a period of relative calm.
Warning against actions to be taken with the launch of the drill and after that, claimed: “I think they’re going to continue to perform provocative actions over there… and I think they’ll look at every opportunity they can to do that.”
“There’s nothing that suggests to me, short of a regime change there, that you have a different tone set from the leadership, that would suggest to me that they’re going to stop doing what they’ve been doing,” he added. In a thought-provoking remark, Moldy suggested that U.S. reactions to Iranian actions could take away from the Pentagon’s focus toward priorities like countering China.
“As they start creating mischief over there… our reaction is we send an aircraft carrier over there for 10 months,” he said. “What does that do to our carrier readiness? It degrades readiness the longer it’s over.
The Associated Press reported that the drill is also seen as a response to recent U.S. maneuvers with its regional ally Saudi Arabia, in which China also participated. It said Tehran has been seeking to step up military cooperation with Beijing and Moscow amid unprecedented economic sanctions from Washington. Visits to Iran by Russian and Chinese naval representatives have also increased in recent years and according to Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian the drill would “deepen exchange and cooperation between the navies of the three countries.”
K.T. Mcfarland, former US President’s Deputy National Security Advisor in an interview with Fox Business voiced concern over the joint naval drill of Russia, China and Iran and described it a “nightmare scenario” She said: “We’ve spent 75 years trying to make sure that the Russians and the Chinese don’t have an alliance. We’ve tried everything starting with the Nixon administration and tried to drive a wedge between China and the Soviet Union, and we’ve finally gotten them apart.”
She added: “The other thing is that we want to make sure that Russia doesn’t team up with Iran. Russia is a landlocked country. It doesn’t have access to warm water ports; it does if it’s got a connection with Iran and the three of them together merry up Russia’s military capabilities, Iran’s location and oil and China’s wealth and technological advantage. It’s an absolute unmitigated nightmare disaster for us if those three countries ever decide to have a military alliance.”
Asked if the naval drill was a warning to NATO, she said: “Well, not only NATO members but Japan and South Korea. We are all affected, every country that we trade with, that we consider our allies or even our competitors, we should all be very nervous about a Sino-Russian-Iranian alliance. That really is the doom’s day nightmare scenario.”
Collective Chinese-Russian-Iranian Navies Stronger than US Navy
Financial Times quoted Jonathan Eyal, associate director at the Royal United Services Institute, as saying that the joint naval drills had been choreographed by the three countries to send a message that US influence in the region was waning.
“This is a carefully calculated exercise in which all three participants are winners: Iran gets to claim it is a regional power, Russia demonstrates its role as the key actor in the Middle East, and China can show it is a global naval power,” Mr. Eyal said. “The strategic message is that these are the countries shaping events in the Middle East.”
James Edward Banks, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives warned against Iran-Russia-China alliance calling the three “Axes of Evil.”
He told Fox News: “This is a provocative exercise by the axes of evil, Iran, allied with the Chinese and Russians. Now separately none of those navies could stand to match the American naval forces at all, but collectively they would exceed the U.S. fleet as the three of them come together in a provocative exercise. This is an example of the Chinese aligning themselves with a very dangerous actor in Iran. The very fact that the Chinese have allied with Iran in an exercise like this in a provocative fashion should be alarming to every American.”
An analyst at the American Institute of Rand also spoke to P.B.S TV saying the message of the exercise was that the US is unable to isolate Iran. “Russia and China tell the United States and the international community that they are the main players in the region.”
The Daily Mail in a report called the exercise related to the sanctions against Iran, saying it was unprecedented as the US government withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Agreement last year and re-imposed the sanctions against Iran increasing tension on its nuclear program.
Chair of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat, a prominent Tory MP, has claimed joint naval drills between Iran, China and Russia are a warning to the UK – and urged “democracies” to “defend shared interests”.
He noted: This is the new world in which we must operate. “We need to get together with mid-sized democracies and defend the interests we share.”
In a follow-up tweet, the Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling continued: “If we limit ourselves to regional action we will be unable to counter the global reach of others – our alliances should include India, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia as well as regional partners.”
In another report, Russia’s Sputnik said the exercise starts on the backdrop of the United States attempting to cobble up a coalition to provide maritime security near Iran’s waters. It said the drill codenamed ‘Naval Security Belt’ carries a message of peace, friendship, and stable security.
Turkey’s Anadolu news agency quoting an international affairs analyst called the drill a “show of strength” by Iran and its allies in the wake of naval tension between Iran and the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He said: “It doesn’t challenge U.S. hegemony worldwide. But right now, it limits America’s strategic options and capabilities in most of Asia and northern Africa.”
“Iran is changing its military defense tactic and wants to send a message to the West that its maritime defense borders are expanding, which is why the Persian Gulf region has not been chosen for the exercise,”
China’s CGTN TV channel underlining the importance of the Oman Sea, said the waters around Iran have become the focus of international tension, with the United States exerting pressure for Iranian crude oil sales and other trade ties to be cut off. The Gulf 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.
Andrew Korybko, American political analyst in an opinion published in People’s Daily, the highest circulated state-owned daily in China said even though the whole point of the drill is to support the regional balance of power in order to facilitate a political resolution to the pertinent countries’ dispute.
“The Western mainstream media is fear-mongering about the upcoming joint Chinese-Iranian-Russian naval drills in the northern Indian Ocean later this week but their alarmist reaction to these multilateral exercises is mistaken. Some forces have a vested interest in portraying these countries’ entirely normal military cooperation as a threat to regional peace.”
He said China and Russia’s military cooperation with Iran isn’t occurring at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) expense.
It’s therefore disingenuous to portray China and Russia’s forthcoming drills as being aimed against any third party when they’re really just an exercise of what could be described as “military diplomacy,” or in other words, pursuing diplomatic ends through gentle military means.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator said: “Such a gesture urges the US not to launch military actions unilaterally or put more pressure on Iran.”
China’s state-owned daily Global Times quoted analysts as saying that it would improve China’s ability in responding to security challenges in distant oceans and help safeguard stability in the Persian Gulf amid escalating tensions.
It stressed that the joint drill shows China and Russia, two major responsible world powers, are supporting Iran in the Iran nuclear deal after the US’ withdrawal in mid-2018.
The Zionist regime daily Jerusalem Post analyzed the joint naval drill by Iran, Russia, and China and said the message from Tehran is that symbolically the US is no longer a global hegemon. “It was a big moment for Tehran in which it showed that the US sanctions and attempts to isolate Iran are not working,” it said.
Pointing to diplomatic shuttles of Iranian officials, it said Iran is pushing the diplomatic envelope in Turkey, Malaysia, Japan, Oman and elsewhere. It wants to show it can multitask while the US is merely pushing sanctions. At the same time, Iran continues to reduce adherence to the Iran nuclear deal.”
It said Iran’s purpose behind these drills is to show that it can partner with other countries that also want to challenge US power in the long term.
Commenting on the drill, Rai al-Youm daily wrote that the United States is no longer the sole ruler of the world and does not determine its military and political fate and that its hegemony is rapidly eroding in this framework, and the Persian Gulf region, the Strait of Hormuz in particular, is no longer as monopolized as it was a century ago.
It may be too early to say that this exercise is the embodiment of a new trilateral strategic alliance, but it still carries an important message to the United States and other Western nations who announced the creation of two naval alliances last month.
According to the report: Iran, which faces a tough US blockade, is the biggest beneficiary of the exercise because it breaks the US-imposed sanctions on Iran, at least from a psychological and mental point of view, confirming that Iran is not isolated in the world and has strategic allies in the weight of two superpowers, namely China and Russia.
The newspaper’s analyst added if Western reports are true that China will become the largest economic power in 10 years and with Russia’s partnership will be able to end the dominance of the US dollar in five years by establishing a global financial system, then this means that Iran, unlike its Arab neighbors, has chosen a very powerful, promising and reliable ally for itself.
The paper said Iran makes friends with the powerful states, because it has a strategic ambition and advanced military industries and therefore it is getting stronger but its Arab neighbors are allied with the power to turn them into weak and humiliating followers despite spending billions of dollars for their subservience. That is why Iran is advancing and developing while others are simply content with insult, abuse and seeking superiority through the establishment of cyber “armies” for that purpose.