Iran and Oman began joint naval maneuvers in the South Sea and north of the Indian Ocean amid a string of high-profile incidents between Iranian and the U.S. vessels in the Gulf, according the official Iranian news agency IRNA, as reported by al-Arabiya. The two countries will hold five-day joint rescue and relief drills in Iran's southern waters and the northern areas of the Indian Ocean.
U.S. and Iranian naval forces have encountered each other several times in the Gulf while U.S.-Iranian relations are becoming more hostile than by the day. According to statistics released by the U.S., seven interactions have been reported so far this year.
Iran's navy routinely holds war games that it says are aimed at improving its readiness against threats. It also sends its warships to international waters off the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy.
Iran's navy began an annual drill in early March near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, its first major exercise since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Tension has escalated between the two countries after Iran test-fired a new ballistic missile earlier this month, prompting Washington to impose some new sanctions on Tehran. Iranian forces view the American presence in the Gulf and especially the Strait of Hormuz as a provocation by itself. They in turn have accused the U.S. Navy of unprofessional behavior.
The Pentagon has previously voiced concern over a string of high-profile incidents in waters off Iran, where the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) frequently conducts risky maneuvers around U.S. vessels, including some where the Americans have had to fire warning shots.
While still a presidential candidate in September, Donald Trump vowed that any Iranian vessels that harassed the U.S. Navy in the Gulf would be "shot out of the water."
Similar incidents happen occasionally, but the last serious one was in January when a U.S. Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed and disregarded repeated requests to slow down.