Iran, China, and Russia began joint naval drills on Friday (December 27) in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, in what Moscow said was an unprecedented exercise in naval cooperation and training.
The first of its kind naval drill was launched yesterday with the aim to promote the security of international trade in the strategic regions, as well as to share experience among participants against piracy and marine terrorism, reported The Tehran Times.
Waters around Iran have become a focus for international tensions, with the United States exerting pressure for Iranian crude oil sales and other trade ties to be cut off.
The series of joint operations with China and Russia can be considered as one of Iranian defence diplomacy's greatest achievements. The operations also send messages to the West amid US efforts to woo countries into a maritime coalition for patrols in the Persian Gulf.
To shed more light on the issue, Tehran Times reached out to Dr Omid Shokri Kalehsar, Senior Energy Diplomacy, and Energy Security Analyst, contributor for United World International, an analyst at Gulf State Analytics.
Talking about the importance of Iran, Russia, and China's joint military drill from the energy perspective, and importance of the region where the drill was held, Omid said, "US sanctions against Iranian oil exports aimed at reducing Iran's oil exports not only reduced Iran's oil production and exports but also provided an opportunity for Iran's rivals in the oil market to gain part of Iran's share of the world oil market. Iran was able to retain some of its share of the oil market, especially East Asia, by selling oil on the gray market."
He added, "The United States sees an opportunity to control oil trafficking in important export zones such as the Strait of Hormuz to reduce the economic growth of China and other countries."
Oil security is the most important issue in regard to energy security for China, while for other countries it is often gas or other fuels. According to the latest statistics, China is the biggest beneficiaries of the Strait of Hormuz; they receive about 4 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. Around 42% of China's imported oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.
After playing an active role in the Syrian crisis, Russia is trying to increase its influence and presence in the Middle East. However, Russia is not willing to control the US transit route and energy control resources.
When the Tehran Times correspondent asked if Iran can reach an alliance with Russia and China through the drill, Omid answered, "Looking at the larger geopolitics, it can be said that the Iran-China-Russia coalition is likely to form, and the joint patrol between Russia and China in the waters of Japan and South Korea in the East China Sea reinforces the possibility of becoming partners."
This naval drill exhibits that Iran is not isolated and shares a mutual interest with Russia and China at the moment. However, it is not clear how long the collation will last after Qasem Soleimani's assassination in Iran through airstrike by the hands of Trump-led US administration.