Iranian navy commander Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi indicated this week that the rogue nation would flex its muscle by possibly participating in joint war games with Russia and China in December, according to reports.
“[T]he joint war game between Iran, Russia and China, which will hopefully be conducted next month, carries the same message to the world, that these three countries have reached a meaningful strategic point in their relations,” Khanzadi said Wednesday, according to Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency.
The war games would follow economic and civic turmoil for the nation, which recently came under crippling sanctions after the United States controversially withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year.
The Tasnim News Agency, another semi-official group, also reported on the games, which were reportedly planned by representatives from the three nations in October.
“The purpose of the war game is to ensure collective security and help strengthen security in the northern region of the Indian Ocean, which is witnessing incidents such as piracy,” Khanzadi reportedly said on Saturday.
He claimed his fleet could travel to the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf of Finland. The naval commander also portrayed the games as a way of extending Iran’s commercial reach.
“The war game seeks to deliver this message to the world that any kind of security at sea must include the interests of all concerned countries,” he said. “We do not condone the kind of security that only caters to the benefits of one specific country at a specific time and which disregards the security of others.”
He added: “Seas, which are used as a platform for conducting global commerce, cannot be exclusively beneficial to certain powers.”
In an apparent attack on the United States, Khanzadi called out “bullying tactics” used to “sanction another country’s oil by restricting its passage through international waters.”
“They need to realize that those countries with common interests have close military cooperation with one another in a bid to achieve a desirable level in their collective security,” he said.
U.S. sanctions, re-imposed by Trump, largely have stopped Iran from selling its crude oil abroad, cutting into a crucial source of government income. While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged the money saved from cutting gasoline subsidies would go to the poor, Tehran also needs to cut back spending in order to weather the sanctions.
Iranian officials looking to hit back at the U.S. over crippling economic sanctions reportedly considered attacking American bases before launching airstrikes in September on a massive Saudi Arabian oil facility instead.
Iran’s per-capita gross domestic product, often used as a rough sense of a nation’s standard of living, is just over $6,000, compared to over $62,000 in the U.S., according to the World Bank. That disparity, especially given Iran’s oil wealth, fueled the anger felt by protesters in the nation.
Already, Iranians have seen their savings chewed away by the rial’s collapse from 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord to 126,000 to $1 today. Daily staples also have risen in price.
Even with the hike in gasoline prices, Iran still subsidizes fuel costs. Its economy remains largely state-planned despite privatization efforts. Among other major subsidies are bread and wheat, diesel fuel, heating oil and electricity.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.