Iran thinks it is entering the big league in naval powers as its Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi announced a joint naval drill with Russia and China. It came as a deputy chief of the Chinese Joint Staff was in a meeting with Khanzadi, according to Iran’s Press TV.What’s really behind the scenes of this is that Iran wants to show off after the US and France have both announced maritime security initiatives in the Gulf. Iran is pushing a “Hormuz peace” plan called HOPE. Now Iran says its Maritime Security Belt drill will go ahead on December 27. Iran wants to work more closely with China. Having Russia on board is a win as well for Tehran. The problem for Tehran is that while China is an emerging naval behemoth and Russia is a historic naval power, Iran has a weak navy. Iran’s great naval “achievement” of the last years has been using fast boats to harass real navies. One US official said at a conference in February that the US could destroy Iran’s navy easily. In fact, Iran’s navy is bifurcated between the IRGC and the actual navy. The IRGC is the one that harasses Western governments. The actual navy doesn’t do much. But Iran has been showcasing new drones and other technology for its ships.So Iran’s message is that it can play in the big league with the Russians and Chinese. That would be a big win for Iran as it faces the so-called “maximum pressure” campaign from the US. The US National Defense Strategy, conceived between 2015 and 2018, is seeking to shift toward confronting big or threatening countries like Iran, Russia, China and North Korea. This is supposed to get away from the counter-terror obsession of 2001-2015. Go big or go home is the name of the game in this strategy.The US is going big at sea with a new $20 billion deal for submarines. China is looking to build its fourth aircraft carrier and recently ended US military port calls in Hong Kong as a message for the US to stop interfering. The US is spending $650 billion on defense while China is spending $250 billion. Russia has a new warship named the Gromky while it sent its advanced Admiral Gorshkov to Cuba this year.All this now impacts the Gulf because of Iranian attacks on oil tankers that began in May and because various countries want to project strength. France is also in the game in the Gulf. It got the Netherlands to sign on to its naval mission, led from the UAE. The US held its Maritime Exercise IMX in the Gulf in October for three weeks to show its forces. The US Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. The US has sought to lead an International Maritime Security Construct in the Gulf along with the UK, Australia, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.Iran’s defense budget, at only $20 billion, is peanuts in comparison. It has a relatively new destroyer called the Sahand and several other large ships. Overall though, Iran’s naval posturing is purely about showing it can do a joint exercize with other countries amid US pressure. This will lead to its message that nearby countries, such as Oman, should work with it on its HOPE initiative.