Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin / AP
Two Russian warships have docked in northern Iran for a series of naval training exercises with the Islamic Republic, according to Persian-language reports translated by the CIA’s Open Source Center. The two Russian ships docked in Iran’s Anzali port on Sunday and will hold “joint naval exercises during the three-day stay of the warships in Iran,” according to a Persian-language report in Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency. “The [Russian] warships, Volgodonsk and Makhachkala docked in Anzali Port [near the Caspian Sea], in the fourth naval zone, on the afternoon of 9 August,” the report says.
The war exercises come just weeks after Iran and global powers inked a nuclear accord that will provide Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for slight restrictions on the country’s nuclear program. Russian and Iran have grown close in recent years, with delegations from each country regularly visiting one another to ink arms deals and other agreements aimed at strengthening Iran’s nuclear program. Russia and Iran agreed earlier this year to begin construction on several new nuclear power plants. Russia has also agreed to sell Iran a controversial advanced missile defense system that can prevent attacks by Western powers.
The Russian fleet docked in Iran’s port “carrying a message of ‘peace and friendship,’” according to Iranian officials quoted by Fars. The fleet was “welcomed by Iranian naval commanders and staff.” The Russian commander of the fleet is scheduled to hold meetings with “local political and military officials” in Iran’s northern provinces, according to Fars.
Levan Jagarian, Russia’s ambassador to Tehran, reportedly attended the docking ceremony and called for “for boosting mutual ties between the two countries in various fields,” according to the report. The two nations went on to say that “expanding bilateral economic, political, and military cooperation is among the priorities of the visit.”
A Russian fleet also docked in northern Iran in October.
Last week, a senior Iranian naval commander warned the United States against ever taking military action on Iranian interests, claiming that the response would be “unpredictably strong.” “The western media are mocking at the U.S. for speaking of ‘on the table options (against Iran)’ because the U.S. always utters some words without the ability to materialize them,” Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Naval Commander Ali Fadavi was quoted as saying by the country’s state-run press. Iran is “ready to give such a powerful response to the slightest move of the U.S. that it won’t be able to make any other moves,” Fadavi was quoted as saying. The military leader went on to claim that “Iranian Armed Forces are now at the highest level of preparedness” and that “only the dead body of the American troops realizes the power of the Islamic Revolution.”
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, said the Obama administration is fundamentally misreading Iran’s intentions in light of the recently inked nuclear accord. “We’re witnessing a new great game, and Obama is so self-centered he keeps playing solitaire,” Rubin said. “Obama simply doesn’t understand that the world is full of dictators who seek to checkmate America. What he sees as compromise; they see as weakness to exploit.”
Referring to a visit last week to Russia by IRGC leader Qassem Soleimani, who is responsible for the deaths of Americans, Rubin said it is clear that Moscow and Tehran aim to build a tight military alliance. “Visiting Russia to talk arms purchases and now this naval visit, it’s clear that Putin and Khamenei will waste no time to really develop their military cooperation,” he said.
An axis between Russia, Iran, and North Korea is beginning to emerge Rubin said, citing official releases that a North Korean delegation is currently visiting Russia to tour war games sites. “The Russian warship visit combined with North Korea scoping out war game sites in Russia suggest a new Axis of Evil is taking shape with Russia the lynchpin between Iran and North Korea,” Rubin said. “As for the United States, rather than the leader of the free world, Obama and Kerry have transformed us in much of the world’s eyes as the pinnacle of surrender.”
Meanwhile, Obama admitted Monday that Iran’s nuclear breakout time will shrink to “a matter of months” once the nuclear accord expires in around 15 years.