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Iran Highlights Naval Exercises With Russia,China Amid Isolation

A handout photo made available by the Iranian Navy office on February 23, 2019, shows Iranian Navy submarines sailing during an Iranian navy drill in the Gulf of Oman, on February 22.

Iran’s state media is highlighting joint naval exercises with Russia and China launched December 27, amid diplomatic and economic isolation for Tehran.

"The message of this exercise is peace, friendship and lasting security through cooperation and unity... and its result will be to show that Iran cannot be isolated," Iranian flotilla admiral Gholamreza Tahani said on state television.

Russia also highlights the event calling it “an unprecedented” example of naval cooperation.

Iran presents the drills in northern Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman as an exercise to strengthen safety of international navigation in a tense area.

Following the expansion of U.S. sanctions against Iran in May, Tehran has been keen to expand its military cooperation with Russia and China as a strategic response to U.S. pressures. The presence of Russian and Chinese naval vessels in Iranian ports has increased in recent months.

In May and June two mysterious attacks on oil tankers took place in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf, which the United States and Saudi Arabia blamed on Iran. Tehran has rejected the accusation.

After these attacks the United States formed a coalition to protect shipping in the region. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Kingdom, Albania and Australia have joined the coalition.

European countries have also formed their own coalition with the same goal of protesting shipping.

While China has joined Russia and Iran in the drills, it also held long naval exercises with Iran’s regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia in November, which is Beijing’s biggest oil supplier. China maintains good relations with both sides but largely abides by U.S. sanctions against Iran.

With reporting by Reuters