Last summer, when the Syrian conflict was near its peak under the Obama administration, China unexpectedly warned it was ready to enter the proxy war when in a stunning announcement, Xinhua reported that Beijing was prepared to side with Syria and Russia, against the US-led alliance, and that Xi and Assad had agreed that the Chinese military will have closer ties with Syria and provide humanitarian aid to the civil war torn nation.
A high-ranking People’s Liberation Army officer also said that the training of Syrian personnel by Chinese instructors has also been discussed: the Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, Guan Youfei, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij, Xinhua added. Guan said China had consistently played a positive role in pushing for a political resolution in Syria. “China and Syria’s militaries have a traditionally friendly relationship, and China’s military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Syria’s military,” Xinhua quoted Guan.
As Russia’s deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov said on May 29, “our cooperation with China on Syria at various international venues is unprecedented. We blocked six attempts to pass anti-Syrian resolutions in the U.N. Security Council,” Morgulov said at “Russia and China: Taking on a New Quality of Bilateral Relations” international conference adding that “together we call for a peaceful and political-diplomatic solution to conflicts, without double standards, unilateral action or attempts at ousting regimes. Our approaches coincide, among other things, on the uncompromising fight against terrorism.”
And while the Syrian conflict has taken a back seat in recent weeks to the latest crisis to grip the Gulf region, namely the economic and territorial blockade of Qatar by its Arab neighbors, overnight China made an unexpected appearance, not surprisingly perhaps siding again with the biggest supporter of the Assad regime, when as AP reported Iran’s navy conducted a joint exercise with a Chinese fleet near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. It was only the second time the Chinese flotilla has visited the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas since 2014, and comes at a tense moment as the Senate last week passed a new round of sanctions against Tehran.
According to Iran’s official IRNA news agency, Sunday’s drill included an Iranian warship as well as two Chinese warships, a logistics ship and a Chinese helicopter that arrived in Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas last week, and adds that the scheduled exercise “came before the departure of the Chinese fleet for Muscat, Oman.”
Rear Admiral Shen Hao, Commander of China Navy Task Force Group 150 confirmed as much, saying that “holding the maneuver had already been planned and the successful execution of the program will help develop more friendship, promote interaction and strengthen confidence between the two navies of Iran and China.”He called Iran and China two ancient and civilized countries of Asia with a long history of friendship, adding that by exchanging high ranking delegations in recent years, cooperation between the two navies have entered into a new phase.
Separately, in a tacit show of support for Qatar in its own ongoing diplomatic spat, the U.S. navy held a joint drill with Qatar in the Persian Gulf on Saturday. It said the scheduled exercise came before the departure of the Chinese fleet for Muscat, Oman.
While the signalling remains muddled, it appears that China is increasingly tipping its cards that it is alligned with the Iran-Syria-Russia axis, while the US appears to be hoping that by indicating military cooperation with Qatar, that the Saudi coalition will gradually allow things to return to the way they were.
Full article: Iran, China Conduct Joint Naval Drills (Zero Hedge)