Russia may support Iran in the “tanker war” in the Persian Gulf, which has forced the UK and US to transfer naval forces to the key oil extraction and transit region to escort tankers.
The General Staff of Iran’s armed forces and the Russian Defense Ministry have signed a memorandum of understanding with the aim of expanding their military cooperation, said Iranian Naval Commander Hossein Khanzadi following a three day visit to Russia.
“This is the first document of this nature, which will become a turning point in the two countries’ military relations,” Khanzadi told the Mehr news agency.
At present, Iran and Russia are preparing to hold joint exercises in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, including the Strait of Hormuz, a key artery for Middle Eastern oil companies through which passes one fifth of the world’s oil supply, from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq, as well as virtually all of Qatar’s LNG.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to obstruct the strait if sanctions prevent Iran from trading oil on equal terms to other regional producers. In the middle of June, there were explosions on two tankers, incidents which the US considers Iran responsible for. In July, Iran seized a British tanker in response to the seizure of its own vessel in Gibraltar.
According to Khanzadi, Moscow and Tehran’s military cooperation is not limited to the Persian Gulf. The countries are currently discussing increased cooperation and possible joint drills in the Caspian Sea.
Russian naval vessels will arrive in Iran before the end of the year, Khanzadi said in April.
In addition, Tehran is also expecting financial assistance from Moscow. Iran’s draft budget for the financial year starting on 21 March (the year 1398 according to the Persian calendar) includes a $5 billion loan from Russia. The funds are expected to be used on infrastructural projects, including nuclear energy, railway transport, and the building of dams, irrigation networks and water pipelines.