MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Envoys from 41 nations gathered in Bahrain Monday to begin anti-mine drills in the Persian Gulf amid efforts by Iran to expand its naval presence there, the US Navy said.
The US-led exercises, which run through May 30, mark the second major show of maritime cooperation in the Gulf in less than a year.
Although the Navy says the drills are not specifically tailored to counter Iranian threats, Iran has previously warned it could block critical Gulf oil routes in retaliation for Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran also has sought to expand its naval capabilities, including plans to launch new submarines.
A Navy statement Monday says the drills will begin with onshore training and then move to the Gulf for maneuvers including mine-sweeping and search-and-seizure operations.
Tehran has threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz in the past, a major gateway for the world’s oil.
“We are very pleased to see that more than 40 nations have joined us here to take part in this opportunity to enhance international naval capability to preserve freedom of navigation in international waterways,” said John W. Miller, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, according to the Xinhua news agency. “If 41 nations are willing to come here and practice MCM, just imagine how effective the global mine response would be if someone actually put mines in the water.”
More than 100 divers, 35 ships and 18 unmanned submarines will take part in the drill, according to Xinhua.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.