Iran to Partake in Joint Naval Exercise with Russia, China
Iran announced that it will hold joint naval exercises – dubbed Marine Security Belt – with Russia and China in late December, a move that could heighten tensions with the Trump Administration. While the drills are expected to take place in the Indian Ocean, the initiative is being construed as evidence that Tehran has not been deterred after being blamed by the US and other Western countries for numerous attacks this summer on commercial oil tankers transiting vital Gulf waterways. In response, the Pentagon launched a maritime security operation in and around the strategic Strait of Hormuz to ensure freedom of navigation in an area through which about a third of the world’s daily oil supply passes. Analysts believe the naval exercises will provide a boost to the Islamic Republic, which is contending with the fallout from an ongoing brutal crackdown on nationwide anti-regime protests as well as strengthened US economic sanctions. News of the exercises also comes as nine European nations – spearheaded by Britain, France and Germany, all parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – are working to launch a financial mechanism known as INSTEX, essentially a barter system that would allow Iran to continue trading with international partners. Along with European nations, Moscow and Beijing remain committed to salvaging the nuclear accord – from which US President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018 – and are considered by many as the two primary challengers to a half-century of global US military and economic dominance.