Russia is joining up with Iran for joint naval exercises for the first time ever, according to the Iranian Mehr News Agency.
The joint Russian-Iranian naval maneuvers, which were announced Wednesday, are taking place this week in the Caspian Sea.
The report, which could not be independently confirmed, quoted a senior Iranian ports authority official who said the drill was aimed at preventing pollution and improving search and rescue operations coordination between the two nations.
However, the maneuver, involving some 30 vessels, is seen by some analysts as a way to join forces against the U.S., which the Asia Times referred to as "the intrusive Western superpower."
Entitled "Regional Collaboration for a Secure and Clean Caspian," the two-day drill quietly combines military objectives with environmental goals. A 1921 Iran-Russia friendship agreement was the legal foundation for the present naval cooperation between the two countries, according to political analyst Kaveh L. Afrasiabi.
Russia has been instrumental in protecting Iran from further sanctions by the United Nations Security Council due to its defiance of a U.N. mandate to end its nuclear development program.
Iran has continued to add uranium enrichment centrifuges and improve its ability to produce nuclear weapons-grade uranium, to the dismay of those hoping to persuade the Islamic Republic through diplomacy to abandon the effort.
Russia has been behind the construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, although Russian banks several months ago balked at funding any more of the project. Nevertheless, Russia has sent at least two shipments of nuclear fuel supplies to the facility, which is expected to come on line by the end of the year.
Israel has warned repeatedly that it will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often threatened to annihilate the Jewish State.