Iranian military spokesman Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi has announced that his country will carry out a four-day joint naval exercise with Russia and China. The exercise is set to commence on December 27th and take place in the northern part of the Indian Ocean.

This all follows recent U.S. buildup in the region. In particular, the United States has deployed soldiers to Saudi Arabia as well as bolstered the kingdom’s air defences.

According to Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, the commander of the Iranian Navy, this exercise is merely part of a wider naval collaboration between Tehran and Beijing. The two countries are also set to work together in producing destroyers and submarines.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed his country’s participation and specified “We, the People’s Republic of China, and Iran are preparing naval drills for fighting terrorists and pirates in this part of the Indian Ocean.”

This is not Iran’s first foray into joint exercises. Back in 2017, Iran and China conducted naval exercises together near the Strait of Hormuz. The strait sees one third of the world’s sea-traded oil pass through it.

The area of the Persian Gulf is increasingly becoming the sight of multinational military efforts. The U.S. conducted its own operation out of Bahrain back in November and is currently planning to establish and lead the International Maritime Security Construct. The Construct is set to include regional and more distant states like the United Kingdom and Australia. At the same time, France, which currently has a base in Abu Dhabi, announced last month a European-led maritime surveillance initiative that will operate in the Persian Gulf.

In an attempt to de-escalate regional tensions, Iran has tried to make overtures to some of the Gulf states, especially Qatar and Oman, while pushing for what it terms the Hormuz Peace Endeavor.

As for the trilateral joint exercises, they are a sign of growing cooperation that is likely to continue in the coming year. With all three countries facing sanctions or tariffs from the U.S., it is in their mutual interest to further develop their ongoing collaboration in the face of growing pressure. In addition, such exercises will allow China to further flex its growing military muscle. They will also augment Russia’s already increasing influence in the Middle East.