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EghtesadOnline: Iran, China and Russia have launched joint naval drills on Friday starting from the port of Chabahar in southeastern Iran toward the northern areas of Indian Ocean.

The four-day wargame is dubbed "Marine Security Belt" and consists of various tactical exercises such as target practicing and rescuing ships from assaults and fire incidents. 

Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani, Iranian Navy’s deputy for operations, said the exercises are aimed at strengthening the regional security, IRNA reported. 

"Among the purposes of maneuvers are improving the security of international maritime commerce, fighting piracy and marine terrorism, exchanging information on maritime rescue efforts and sharing operational and tactical experiences," Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.

Iran is taking part in maneuvers with its Sahand and Alborz destroyers, the Kenarak and Tonb logistic warships, the Neyzeh missile boat and the Nazeri hospital ship, according to Press TV. 

"This is the first time following the [1979] Islamic Revolution that Iran has held a joint maneuver with two major world naval powers at this scale," Tahani said.

China has sent its Xining guided missile destroyer, nicknamed "carrier killer" to the drills. 

Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesman Wu Qian said on Thursday that the military exercises aim to "deepen exchange and cooperation between the navies of the three countries", AFP reported. 

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Friday it had sent three ships from its Baltic Fleet, including frigate Yaroslav Mudry, tanker Yel'nya and rescue tugboat Yevgeniy Khorov to take part in the drills, Reuters reported, citing Red Star, the official newspaper of Russia’s Armed Forces. 



Operational Coordination 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said in October that the trilateral wargame would improve operational coordination in the fight against terrorists and pirates. 

The Sea of Oman is a particularly sensitive waterway as it connects to the Strait of Hormuz, which in turn connects to the Persian Gulf and is a passageway for about a fifth of the world's oil.

Waters around Iran have become a focus of international tensions, since several attacks were made on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. 

The United States, which is already at odds with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal, has held Iran accountable (despite Tehran’s denial of any role) and called for the launch of an international security mission in the waters to protect shipping. 

The coalition, however, has not received a warm welcome, with only a few of its allies, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, agreeing to join. 



Pentagon’s Reaction 

Pentagon said ahead of the trilateral military exercise that the US is monitoring the naval drills and will cooperate with allies to ensure the freedom of navigation. 

"We are aware of the multilateral exercise being conducted between Iran, China and Russia in the Arabian Sea. We are monitoring it and will continue to work with our partners and allies to ensure freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in international waterways," Pentagon Spokesman Sean Robertson said on Thursday, Sputnik reported. 

Washington has also targeted Iran with its economic sanctions after exiting the nuclear deal last year, aiming to cut off its crude oil sales and other trade ties with the world.

The joint maneuvers, according to Tahani, serve as a message that "Iran cannot be isolated" and that its relations with its allies are stable and improving. 

"This military exercise means that relations between Iran, Russia and China have reached a meaningful level and this trend will continue in future years," he said. 


Iran Russia China Chabahar Joint Naval Drills Joint Naval Drills Indian Ocean