İrem UZUN -TDO- Iranian state TV reported on Thursday that Iran’s military has launched an annual drill in the Gulf near the strategic Strait of Hormuz waterway, at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Three-day military exercise includes naval, air and ground forces in the maneuvers across a nearly two million-square-kilometer (772,200-square-mile) area off the Gulf of Oman on Thursday. State television said Iranian submarines and drones had also been deployed for the exercise, dubbed Zolfaghar-99. Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the drill, said the exercise was aimed at "improving readiness in confronting foreign threats and any possible invasion". Meanwhile, the spokesman for the drill, Admiral Shahram Irani, told state television that the U.S. had withdrawn drones from the area of the exercise after a warning from Iran.

Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian forces will take part in joint military exercises in southern Russia later this month along with troops from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and others, China's defense ministry announced Thursday. The "Caucus 2020" drills will deploy wheeled vehicles and light weaponry to be flown to the drill location by China's latest version transport aircraft, the ministry said in a news release. The exercises running September 21-26 will focus on defensive tactics, encirclement and battlefield control and command, the ministry said.

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