The United States began its first joint naval drill with Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain on Wednesday.
The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) said in a statement that the drill will “enhance interoperability between participating forces’ maritime interdiction teams.”
Forces participating in the five-day “multilateral maritime security operations exercise” will train in visit, board, search and seizure tactics aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland, NAVCENT said.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said in a statement that it is “exciting to see U.S. forces training with regional partners to enhance our collective maritime security capabilities.”
An Israeli naval officer said in a briefing to reporters in Israel that U.S.-led military cooperation between the countries could help push back on recent regional “power projection” by Iran, Reuters reported.
This is not normalization of diplomatic relations. It’s the birth of a new military alliance reminiscent of the infamous CENTO and METO of the Cold War era. It should be depicted and treated as such. https://t.co/Y1BrlQsupk
— Khalil Jahshan (@KhalilEJahshan) November 11, 2021
As an example of that “power projection,” the officer cited a July attack on a Liberian-flagged Mercer Street oil tanker, which killed two people, per Reuters. The U.S. determined the attack was carried out by a drone strike, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said America was “confident” that Iran conducted the attack.
The officer, who was unnamed, said the drill will “increase the cooperation and the safety of the Red Sea, but not just the Red Sea, because we are dealing with Iranian terror” as a region, Reuters reported.
Last year Israel, Bahrain and the UAE all signed onto the Abraham Accords, a historic agreement which was brokered by former President Trump’s administration in an effort to normalize relations in the region. Since last year, Morocco and Sudan have also signed on to the agreement.
Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk