(TMU) — This weekend, China, Iran, and Russia began their first-ever joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman. The training exercises were announced by China’s defense ministry on Thursday, as all three nations continue to have strained relations with the United States and its allies.
During a monthly press conference, ministry spokesman Wu Qian said that China would be sending its guided-missile destroyer, the Xining, to participate in the drills.
However, during the press conference, Qian was careful to not escalate geopolitical tensions further, saying that the drills were “not necessarily connected with the regional situation.”
Vice-admiral Gholamreza Tahani, a deputy commander with the Iranian Navy, said that this was a show of cooperation between Iran and its allies.
“The most important achievement of these drills . . . is this message that the Islamic republic of Iran cannot be isolated. These exercises show that relations between Iran, Russia and China have reached a new high level while this trend will continue in the coming years,” Tahani said.
Maria Zakharova of the Russian foreign ministry said that the drills were entirely legal.
“We are dealing with the issues of maintaining stability in the region, security and the fight against terrorism. This co-operation and interaction is built on both a bilateral and multilateral basis but exclusively on a legal basis,” Zakharova said.
Still, the drills have caught the attention of the U.S. military, since the exercises are taking place in the Gulf of Oman, a key trade route that the U.S. government is intent on controlling.
Jonathan Eyal, associate director at the Royal United Services Institute told the Financial Times that these drills represent a show of power.
“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. The strategic message is that these are the countries shaping events in the Middle East,” Eyal said.
A State Department representative said that the drills “should concern all nations with an interest in safeguarding freedom of navigation in the region.”
It is important to note that Iran is actually a Middle Eastern country, so it is not at all unusual that they would have an interest in shaping events in that region. It is strange that the United States government, on the other side of the world, is so concerned about what is happening in the region.
In fact, a U.S.-led coalition that included the dictatorship Saudi Arabia launched similar drills in the gulf just a few months ago.
The drills are expected to last until at least December 31.