China and Russia to team up at Iran’s naval war games

China, Iran, and Russia are poised to conduct a joint naval exercise in the coming weeks, aiming to bolster regional security, as announced by the Iranian Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani.

In a statement on the exercise, Irani said, “the primary strategy of the Iranian Army Navy in the current situation is to safeguard the interests and economic resources of the Islamic system and its people,” referring to growing tensions in the Middle East which started after the beginning of hostilities between Israel and Hamas on October 7, 2023.

The strategic timing of the exercise coincides with heightened tensions in the Middle East, particularly highlighted by a U.S.-led coalition’s recent airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. These strikes, a reaction to the Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, aim to diminish the capabilities of the Iran-supported group, further complicating the region’s security landscape.

This announcement, made public by the Iranian government-linked Tasnim News Agency on February 5, underscores the growing convergence of geopolitical interests of the three countries.

The upcoming drills are not merely a repetition of past exercises, but a continuation of a strategic partnership between Iran, Russia, and China, with previous iterations like “Security Bond-2023” focusing on live-fire exercises, anti-terrorism, anti-piracy training, and simulated rescue operations.

Furthermore, countries such as Pakistan, Brazil, Oman, India, and South Africa will participate as observers, showcasing an attempt by China and Russia to bolster confidence among strategic countries following the regional turmoil in the Middle East.

Houthi rebels have specifically targeted vessels linked to countries that back Israel as the group has tried to draw attention to developments in Gaza.

According to the South China Morning Post on Tuesday, Irani emphasized that the drills, scheduled before the end of March, seek to enhance “regional security.”

This year’s naval exercise follows the precedent set in March 2023, when the three countries united for the “2023 Marine Security Belt” war game in the northern Indian Ocean’s northern sectors.

These drills underscore the trio’s commitment to safeguarding their maritime security and signaling their intentions to the U.S. and its allies following the Washington-led coalition’s attacks on the Houthi rebels.

Houthi fighters walk over British and U.S flags on February 4, 2024, on the outskirts of Sana’a, Yemen. China and Russia will unite again for the latest joint naval war game with Iran.

Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images News/iStock

Despite the tension, China’s stance towards the Houthis has been notably restrained, with Reuters reporting Chinese appeals to Iran for assistance in curtailing Red Sea ship attacks by the group. This diplomatic maneuvering reflects the complex interplay of regional politics and security dynamics, with maritime safety at its core.