The Iranian navy on Tuesday rejected “false and incorrect” reports Iran and Russia will hold a joint naval drill in the Persian Gulf within the next few months.
Instead, the Iranians said the drill will be held in the less sensitive waters of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. Both Iranian and Russian media previously quoted an Iranian admiral saying the exercise would be held in the Persian Gulf and might even extend into the very tense Strait of Hormuz.
A statement from the Iranian navy chastised Iranian media outlets for “misinterpreting” Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi’s remarks on Monday by reporting the upcoming joint exercise with Russia will be held in the Persian Gulf, where tensions are running high after Iran accused the United Kingdom of “piracy” for impounding an Iranian tanker and retaliated by seizing a British tanker.
The Iran-Russia training exercise has been in the planning stages since April and will take place sometime in the next few months, although not many details have been made public.
Rear Admiral Khanzadi said on Monday that he signed an “unprecedented” agreement with Russia to coordinate naval activities. He described the agreement as a “turning point in relations of Tehran and Moscow.”
“When we talk about the Indian Ocean, perhaps the most significant part of the area is the northern Indian Ocean, which flows into the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz, and also the Persian Gulf,” Khanzadi said.
“A joint Russian-Iranian exercise is expected to be held shortly in the Indian Ocean. The exercise may also be held in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, including in the Strait of Hormuz,” he said in the comment Iran’s navy claims Iran’s media misinterpreted. Russian media also reported the admiral’s words as suggesting the drill might extend into the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran on Monday warned Western powers not to bring their own warships into the Persian Gulf.
“They want to bring the European war fleet in the Persian Gulf. We think such actions are provocative in the current situation. It has a hostile message. It will stir up tensions,” a spokesman for the Iranian government said.
The British destroyer HMS Duncan arrived in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, joining the frigate HMS Montrose to protect British-flagged vessels from Iranian attack in the Strait of Hormuz. The Duncan was originally scheduled to replace the Montrose after the frigate returned to the U.K. for maintenance, but deployment was accelerated to ensure the Royal Navy maintains a “continuous presence” in the Strait of Hormuz.