Iran and Russia will hold joint military drills in the Persian Gulf later this year as part of a classified agreement to expand cooperation between the two nations.
Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said Sunday the agreement with the Russian Defense Ministry was signed last week in Moscow, Iran’s state-run PressTV reported.
“Some articles of this agreement are classified but overall, it is aimed at expanding military cooperation between the two countries,” Khanzadi said. “Of course, a large part of it includes the naval forces of the two countries and the agreement can be called the first of its kind between the two sides.”
TASS reported that Khanzadi visited Russia in late July. While the location of the exercises has not been confirmed, Iran said activity could be conducted in the Strait of Hormuz as well as the northern part of the Indian Ocean.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz have reached a new high this summer with the deterioration of the Obama-era multinational nuclear agreement that was meant to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and increased sanctions against Iran last year.
On Sunday, Iran said it had detained a tanker in the Persian Gulf last week, claiming it was smuggling oil for Arab countries. It was the third tanker Iran’s military had taken since British Marines captured an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar last month for allegedly violating sanctions against Syria.
The Iranian military seized a United Arab Emirates-based oil tanker, the Panamanian-flagged MT Riah, for allegedly transporting fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers on July 18. The next day, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker, claiming it violated maritime violations after it allegedly collided with an Iranian fishing boat and then failed to stop.