TEHRAN: Iran’s navy commander said his country and Saudi Arabia, as well as three other Gulf states, plan to form a naval alliance that will also include India and Pakistan, Iranian media reported on Saturday.
“The countries of the region have today realised that only cooperation with each other brings security to the area,” Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani was quoted as saying.
He did not elaborate on the shape of the alliance that he said would be formed soon.
Iran has recently been trying to mend its strained ties with several Gulf Arab states. In March, Saudi Arabia and Iran ended seven years of hostility under a China-mediated deal, stressing the need for regional stability and economic cooperation.
Rear Admiral Irani said the states that will take part in the alliance also include the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Pakistan, and India.
Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Iran has frustrated Israel’s efforts to isolate Iran diplomatically.
The UAE, which was the first Gulf Arab country to sign a normalisation agreement with Israel in 2020, resumed formal relations with Iran last year.
In comments at a televised show on Friday night, the Iranian Navy commander said nearly all littoral countries located in the northern areas of the Indian Ocean have come to the conclusion that they need to work in collective cooperation to ensure security, Tasnim News reported.
Pointing to the formation of new regional and extra-regional coalitions, Rear Admiral Irani said the trilateral naval coalition of Iran, Russia and China, which holds annual exercises, is developing. The region will soon be free from any “illegitimate force” and the regional people will ensure security with their own soldiers, he stated.
He noted that while Iran and Oman have held several joint naval drills in the past, other countries are now eager for collective naval cooperation, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Pakistan and India. He confirmed that the UAE has withdrawn from a US-led naval coalition in the Persian Gulf, saying, “Today, the regional countries have realised that establishment of security in the region requires synergy and cooperation.”
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023