Amid ongoing tensions with the US, Moscow and Tehran are embarking on naval cooperation in the Caspian Sea, where huge oil and gas resources reside.
Iran and Russia are preparing to hold joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea, including rescue and anti-piracy drills, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Sunday, according to the semi-official news agency Mehr.
Khanzadi said: “Tactical, rescue and anti-piracy war games between Iranian and Russian naval forces are being planned and will be implemented in the near future.”
Khanzadi reiterated Iran’s opposition to the military presence of any country from outside the region in the Caspian Sea, saying: “All countries around the Caspian have the same approach.”
Iran and Russia have held several naval drills in the Caspian Sea, including in 2015 and 2017.
Russia said last year it was firmly committed to deepening ties with Iran, despite the US decision to quit an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Iran, Russia and three ex-soviet countries - Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan - agreed in principle on August 12, 2018, how to divide up the potentially huge oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea, the world’s biggest enclosed body of water
Iranian flexes naval might against the perceived US threat in the Gulf
A US-Iranian war of words has escalated since US President Donald Trump took Washington out of the Iran nuclear deal in May, and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran's banking and energy sectors.
Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons over the decades.
In recent years, there have been periodic confrontations between the Revolutionary Guards and the US military in the Gulf, but the number of incidents has dropped in recent months.
Iran’s navy launched a domestically-made destroyer, the Sahand, which state media said has radar-evading stealth properties, in the port city of Bandar Abbas on December 1.
The Sahand destroyer has torpedo launchers, anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and electronic warfare capabilities.
The USS John C. Stennis, an American warship, entered the Persian Gulf on December 22 and was shadowed by the Revolutionary Guards’ speed boats.
Following the US entering the Gulf, the Iranian navy will send warships to the Atlantic from March, as the Islamic Republic seeks to increase the operating range of its naval forces, encroaching on the backyard of the United States, its arch foe.
“The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
He said the newly-built destroyer Sahand would be one of the warships sent.