TEHRAN – Dr.Omid Shokri is of the view that the recent joint naval drill of Iran, Russia, and China shows that Iran is not isolated and shares some mutual interests with Russia and China.
The naval drills, the first of their kind, were launched on Friday with the aim of promoting the security of international trade in the strategic regions, as well as sharing experience among participants against piracy and marine terrorism.
The joint maneuvers with China and Russia can be considered as one of the greatest achievements of Iran's defense diplomacy, sending messages to the West amid US efforts to woo countries into a maritime coalition for patrols in the Persian Gulf.
To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Dr.Omid Shokri Kalehsar, Senior Energy Diplomacy, and Energy Security Analyst, contributor for United World International, an analyst at Gulf State Analytics.
Following is the text of our interview with him:
Q: What is the importance of Iran, Russia, and China's joint military drill for these three countries from the energy perspective and also the importance of the region which the drill was held?
A: US sanctions against Iranian oil exports aimed at reducing Iran’s oil exports not only reduced Iran’s oil production and exports but also provided an opportunity for Iran’s rivals in the oil market to gain part of Iran’s share of the world oil market. Iran was able to retain some of its share of the oil market, especially East Asia, by selling oil on the gray market. The control of resources and energy pathways (which play a role in energy security and economic growth of major energy-consuming countries) has always been a priority of world powers and factored in heavily to global political equations. The United States sees an opportunity to control oil trafficking in important export zones such as the Strait of Hormuz to reduce the economic growth of China and other countries.
For China, oil security is the most important issue in regard to energy security, while for other countries it is often gas or other fuels. According to the latest statistics, China is the biggest beneficiaries of the Strait of Hormuz; they receive about 4 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. Around 42% of China’s imported oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. China's main goal for participation in the naval drill is energy security, China has good relations with both Iran and Saudi and trying to solve any problem in the region which directly or indirectly treats china's energy security and china's economic growth.
After playing an active role in the Syrian crisis, Russia is trying to increase its influence and presence in the Middle East. Russia is by no means willing to control the US transit route and energy control resources. Last week, the US Senate approved a plan to ban companies active in the Rolling Stream and Leaving Stream projects. Russian-American competition in the global energy market is increasing day by day. Reducing Russia's share of EU energy exports to the EU market is America's main goal.
China and Russia have incentives for a coalition with Iran, particularly the Russians who have suffered numerous sanctions and conflicts between the Russians, Americans, and Europeans after the invasion of the Crimea. The Chinese were attacked by Washington because of their political rivalries with the US. Chinese want to secure the Persian Gulf, the strategic region of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Q: Can Iran reach an alliance with Russia and China through the drill?
A: Looking at the larger geopolitics, it can be said that the Iran-China-Russia coalition is likely to form, and the joint patrol between Russia and China in the waters of Japan and South Korea in the East China Sea reinforces the possibility of becoming partners. The drone attacks on the Aramco refinery facility and drop in production and exports of the world's largest oil company made the US send more troops to Saudi Arabia at the request of bin Salman.
This naval drill shows that Iran is not isolated and shares some mutual interests with Russia and China at the moment, but it is not clear how long such collation will last; it should be noted that after the US withdrawal from JCPOA, both China and Russia energy firms’ left Iran energy sector and other industries.