Iranian and Russian navy commanders signed an agreement on maritime defense cooperation – the first between the two Caspian neighbors.
Earlier this week Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, the commander of Iran’s navy, was on a three-day visit to Russia to attend a ceremony marking Navy Day and attend Russia’s Main Naval Parade, which was held in St. Petersburg and Kronshtadt on July 28. While in Russia, Khanzadi also visited Russian destroyers and their crews.
During a meeting on July 29, Khanzadi and Russian Navy's Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov signed a Memorandum of Understanding on maritime defense cooperation, which is said to be the first of its kind signed between the two countries. The two sides reportedly discussed the collective security of the Caspian Sea amongst other issues.
“Iranian Army’s Navy is making preparations for the joint naval exercises between Iranian and Russian forces in the northern area of the Indian Ocean and Oman Sea,” read a statement issued by the Iranian navy on July 30, according to Mehr News.
According to reports, combined exercises are expected to take place within the next few months. Officials have denied rumors about holding joint drills in the Persian Gulf.
Russia celebrated Navy Day in St. Petersburg this past Sunday, as over 40 vessels took part in a naval parade along the Neva River before a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the presence of representatives of 20 countries. The Chinese Navy destroyer Xiang and the Indian frigate Tarkash also took part in the annual parade.
Besides the development of military cooperation and joint naval drills, Iran is trying to drum up international support, as it faces pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom in the Strait of Hormuz.
Wide-ranging combined drills in the Indian Ocean would likely gain the Pentagon's attention. The U.S. has deployed additional military assets such as 2,500 troops, a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in response to what the White House considers a heightened threat posed by Iran.
The U.S. has also held Iran responsible for two series of explosions that targeted foreign oil tankers traversing the Gulf of Oman since mid-May, but Iran has denied accusations.
A report of the UK Daily Express said on July 28 that London is mulling offering Russia a seat at the table on its European-led maritime coalition to safeguard tankers from Iranian attacks, something Moscow would likely rebuff, or alternately Moscow could actually consider such a proposal in order to have a hand in ensuring the avoidance of escalation.