Iran Warns U.S. Its Middle East Dominance Is Over After Naval Drills With Russia, China

The commander of Iran's navy has warned that the U.S. has no business in Middle Eastern waters after his forces held joint naval drills with Russia and China.

Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi told reporters Sunday that the four-day exercise in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman—dubbed "Marine Security Belt"—was a signal to U.S. forces operating in the region.

"Today, the era of American free action in the region is over," Khanzadi said, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency. "They must leave the region gradually," he added.

The rear admiral said U.S. forces are not needed to ensure security in the area, where American and Iranian forces have been facing off amid high tensions between Washington and Tehran over the collapsed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

The joint drills coincided with an attack on American forces in Iraq, suspected to have been launched by an Iranian-backed militia.

The rocket attack on an Iraqi military base on Friday killed one American civilian defense contractor and wounded four service members.

In response, the U.S. conducted airstrikes on Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.

Khanzadi said Sunday U.S. forces were not needed in the region.

"Regional countries themselves can ensure security together," he said. "The presence of Americans only creates insecurity in the region," he added, according to the state-backed Fars news agency.

The rear admiral suggested that Iran's "friends" would be reassured by the exercises, while its adversaries should take the drills as a warning. He also said he hoped more regional nations would join future Iranian exercises. "We believe that maritime security definitely needs collective action," Khanzadi explained.

The Gulf of Oman is separated from the Persian Gulf by the Strait of Hormuz. Around one fifth of the world's oil passes through the strait, making it a key strategic location and a dangerous flashpoint between Iran, its neighbors and U.S. forces deployed to the region. Beyond the Gulf of Oman lies the Indian Ocean, which provides important international trade routes to Asia.

The U.S. has established the International Maritime Security Construct—based in Bahrain—to help secure the strategically vital waterways in the region.

The initiative was launched after multiple tankers were attacked in the Persian Gulf. American officials accused Iran of being behind these attacks, as well as a sophisticated strike on key Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure.

These incidents prompted the White House to send thousands more American troops to the region to guard against Iranian aggression.

Iran, China, Russia, US, drills, Middle East
This file photo shows the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz as an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lifts off from the flight deck on November 19, 2019. Stephanie Contreras- U.S. Navy via Getty Images/Getty