Iran flexes military muscle after joint naval drills with Russia, China

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TEHRAN – Iran’s military forces conducted joint naval drills with two key allies, China and Russia, in the Gulf of Oman in what Tehran projected as a major show of military power to its Western adversaries.

During the four-day drills that were completed last Sunday, Chinese and Russian ships patrolled behind the Iranian destroyer Jamaran, a Moudge-class frigate that entered the country’s navy in 2010. A warship took China’s South Sea Fleet, the Nanning, participated in the exercises, as well as the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov, armed with hypersonic missiles. China’s Nanning is a type 052D destroyer and has similarities to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers.

China’s CCTV reported that the drills included live fire prevention and strike practice with night communication exercises.

From Iran’s perspective, both the regular army and the navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were engaged in the war games. The stated goal of the “Marine Security Belt 2023,” according to the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News, was to “strengthen maritime security and trilateral cooperation with a message of goodwill for world peace, and shape a new naval community for a shared future.”

Reporting on the details of the drills, Fars News said they included such practices as countering a fake air attack and extinguishing maritime fire incidents.

“We predict that the number of participating countries and vessels will increase in the coming years,” announced the spokesman for the drills, Rear Adm. Mostafa Tajeddini, in an interview with the state broadcaster, saying that Iran was successful in improving regional security. “Our neighbors have understood this, and they understand today which country as a brother nation is supporting their well-being.”

After the fourth such joint exercise since 2019, Tajeddini said, the three countries have now established a new maritime security center. “We cannot allow extra-regional countries to come and play a central role here,” he said in what appeared to be a message to the United States.

On social media, government loyalists hailed the drills as a sign of the Islamic Republic’s growing global influence. “When China and Russia, the two veto-holding powers of the Security Council, plan to exercise with Iran, it shows the world’s military superpower,” wrote one user, arguing that influence was countered “thanks ” with the efforts. which killed the top commander of Iran, Qasem Soleimani.

In contrast, the Islamic Republic’s allies downplayed the drills, with one user comparing them to “a needle in a haystack” compared to joint Israeli exercises with the United States over the past year.

As a strategic maritime route, the Gulf of Oman is invaluable to the region’s oil-rich countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which earlier in March agreed to a Chinese-mediated rapprochement and seven years of animosity. put aside.

While Saudi officials have expressed cautious optimism about how the deal might unfold, Iranian authorities continue to boast about their new “neighborhood diplomacy”.

For the past decade the Islamic Republic has been promoting what it calls a “look to the East”, the desired foreign policy strategy of its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The 84-year-old cleric argues that Tehran will avoid Western pressure and sanctions by engaging with countries such as China, which in turn is trying to push the United States away from regional calculations with diplomatic drives, backed by its traditional economic influence.

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