Russia, Iran & China To Hold Joint Naval Drills As CENTCOM Chief Blasts Iran As "Driver Of Instability"
Russia, Iran & China To Hold Joint Naval Drills As CENTCOM Chief Blasts Iran As “Driver Of Instability”
On Monday Russia announced plans to hold joint naval drills with Iran and China in the Indian Ocean, according to Reuters, which cites comments made by Moscow’s ambassador to Tehran. Russian Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan said, “The next multilateral naval exercises will take place in the northern part of the Indian Ocean in mid-February 2021.”
It comes just after the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier was ordered out of its Mideast region of responsibility at the start of this month. The Nimitz is headed home to its base in Washington state, after Trump kept it in the Indian Ocean and gulf region on standby amid ratcheting tensions with Iran. Biden then ordered it home within his first couple weeks in office.
Russia, China, and Iran last held naval drills in the region in a December 2019 exercise. Amb. Dzhagaryan detailed in his comments initially given to Russian state media that the joint drills are expected to focus on “search and rescue” operations as well as maritime security focused on shipping. Interestingly it comes following the summer of 2019 ‘tanker war’ showdown with the UK and US.
The announcement also comes just as the US, Japan, and Australia are conducting joint drills out of Guam specifically aimed at countering a theoretical future attack from big powers like China or Russia. These drills, dubbed Cope North 2021, are expected to run until Feb. 19.
Also on Monday the head of US Central Command, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, issued his first public remarks since President Biden entered the White House last month.
He blasted Iran as the main and “most challenging driver of instability” in the region, while further describing that Tehran and Washington are currently in a state of “contested deterrence”.
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Gen. McKenzie said, “For more than forty years, the Iranian regime has funded and aggressively supported terrorism and terrorist organizations, and defied international norms by conducting malign activities which destabilized not only the region but global security and commerce as well.”
“Our presence in the region, mostly defensive in nature, has brought us to a period of contested deterrence with Iran,” he added. “This presence sends a clear and unambiguous signal about our capabilities and will to defend partners and international interests, a signal that has been clearly received by the Iranian regime.”
The CENTCOM chief’s comments were surprisingly blunt at a moment it remains very up in the air whether Washington and Tehran will engage toward restoring the 2015 nuclear agreement, or JCPOA. Iran has told the US it must first drop sanctions if it hopes to restore participation, while Washington has made it clear Iran must take the first step toward restoring uranium enrichment caps per the deal’s stipulations.
Gen. McKenzie’s bold remarks will certainly only add to the controversy and sense of uncertainty looming over the nuclear deal’s future fate.