Four-day naval exercise between Iran, China, and Russia was launched from the port city of Chabahar in southeastern Iran. Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani said on state television, “The message of this exercise is peace, friendship and lasting security through cooperation and unity … and its effect will be to show that Iran cannot be isolated,”.
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The initiative comes after a US-led naval coalition, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, launched operations in the Gulf in November to guarantee the safe supply of oil from the region. The UK and Australia also agreed to send warships.
The Gulf of Oman, where the new exercise is being held, is a critical waterway as it connects the Arabian Sea to the Strait of Hormuz, a 33-km wide passage which opens into the Persian Gulf — located between energy producers Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman (the exclave of Musandam), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A fifth of the world’s oil passes through this waterway — around 30% of all sea-borne crude oil globally.
Since 2019, it has been a focal point of global tensions. In May and June, several international merchant vessels were attacked by unidentified assailants. The US blamed Iran for the attacks, a charge that Tehran denied.
In July, Iran detained a British oil vessel, the Stena Impero, for two months, believed to be in retaliation for an Iranian oil carrier that British authorities detained in Gibraltar earlier in the same month.
Tensions rapidly escalated in September, when the US accused Iran of carrying out drone attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The attacks immensely reduced Saudi Arabia’s oil production by half (5% of global oil production) until the affected facilities returned to full capacity by the end of the month. Iran denied its role in the attacks and the responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
Since the attack, the US sent a number of its troops to the region and provided Saudi Arabia with missile defence systems.
Under President Trump, Washington last year withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. The US has since pushed for Iranian energy sales to be cut off, crippling Iran’s economy.
The three-nation drill between three arch-foes of the US is expected to further irritate Washington. A guided-missile destroyer from China and a frigate, tanker and rescue tug boat from Russia would be taking part, Reuters reported. Moscow has called it an unprecedented exercise in naval cooperation and training.