The commander of Iran's navy has confirmed that his forces will participate in joint exercises with Russia and China beginning later this year.
Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi on November 30 said the maneuvers will be held in the northern Indian Ocean from December 22 to January 20.
The admiral’s statement did not give a specific location for the maneuvers, although some media reports said they would be in the Gulf of Oman, site of several recent naval incidents and where Western escort missions are active or about to start.
"The aim of those exercises is to ensure collective security and help boost the security in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, where various incidents, including pirate attacks, are taking place," Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted the admiral as saying.
Two days earlier, Khanzadi had said the exercises would take place in the “near future” and that the joint operation would “send a message to the world,” according to Iran’s Mehr news agency.
“A joint war game between several countries, whether on land, at sea, or in the air, indicates a remarkable expansion of cooperation.”
"[The maneuvers] carry the same message to the world, that these three countries have reached a meaningful strategic point in their relations,” he added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on October 2 said the countries were planning exercises designed to train for anti-terror and anti-piracy missions.
The joint maneuvers will come at a time of heightened tensions between the three nations and the West.
Washington and its Middle Eastern allies have blamed Iran for explosions that damaged as many as four ships outside the Strait of Hormuz in May, and then accused Tehran of using mines to attack two oil tankers in June.
Iran has since seized several international oil tankers in actions seemingly designed to assert Tehran's right to police traffic in the strait, which is a conduit for huge amounts of the region's oil exports.
Washington is leading a coalition of naval forces in the Persian Gulf region to monitor and safeguard international shipping from potential Iranian threats.
Meanwhile, France is leading a separate but similar European mission focusing on the western part of the Gulf of Oman, the eastern part of the Arabian Gulf, and the Strait of Hormuz.
The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Moscow for its seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and its support of separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine battling Kyiv’s government forces.
Meanwhile, China and the United States and its allies are embroiled in several territorial disputes in the South China Sea.