Iran and Russia have embarked on a joint naval drill in the northern part of the Indian Ocean that they say has been designed to “enhance the security” of maritime trade in the region, Iranian state media reported.
State television said on February 16 that the exercise dubbed Maritime Security Belt will cover an area of about 17,000 square kilometers and include units from the Iranian Navy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Navy, and the Russian Navy.
Iranian Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani said its purpose was to “enhance the security of international maritime trade, confront maritime piracy and terrorism, and exchange information.”
The Indian Navy will also join the exercise, in a message of “peace and friendship for neighboring and regional countries,” Tahani said.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that the drill was scheduled to last three days.
This is the second joint Russian-Iranian naval exercise since December 2019, when the two countries plus China held a drill in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.
Iran and China also participated in military exercises held in Russia in September 2020.
Tehran has been seeking to step up military cooperation with Beijing and Moscow amid tensions with the United States.
Iran has also increased its military drills in recent weeks as tensions built during the final days of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Tehran is now trying to pressure U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration to reenter a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Last week, the IRGC conducted a ground forces drill in the southwest of Iran near the Iraqi border.
Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact in 2018 and reimposed crushing sanctions on Iran.
In response to the U.S. moves, which were accompanied by increased tensions between Iran, the United States, and its allies, Tehran has gradually breached parts of the pact saying it is no longer bound by it.
The Biden administration has expressed willingness to return to compliance with the accord if Iran does, and then work with U.S. allies and partners on a “longer and stronger” agreement, including other issues such as Iran’s missile program and its support for regional proxy forces.
Iranian officials insist that the United States should make the first move by returning to the agreement, which eased international sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
They also say that the country’s missile program and regional policies are off the table.