Iran says it will form joint naval force with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman

Iranian navy chief claims alliance will also include Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, India and Pakistan; announcement comes after UAE said it was leaving US-led force

Illustrative: A boat of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy operates in close proximity to patrol coastal ship USS Sirocco and expeditionary fast transport USNS Choctaw County in the Strait of Hormuz, June 20, 2022. (US Navy via AP)
Illustrative: A boat of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy operates in close proximity to patrol coastal ship USS Sirocco and expeditionary fast transport USNS Choctaw County in the Strait of Hormuz, June 20, 2022. (US Navy via AP)

The commander of Iran’s navy on Friday announced that the country would form a joint naval alliance with several Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Iraq, Iranian media reported.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani made the announcement in a televised program Friday night. He also said it would include India and Pakistan.

The announcement came two days after the UAE said it had withdrawn from a US-led maritime coalition tasked with securing tense Gulf waterways that are vital to the global oil trade.

According to the semi-official Fars news agency, Irani said “countries of the region have realized that the security of the region can be established through synergy and cooperation of the regional states.”

“Almost all the countries of the North Indian Ocean region have come to the understanding that they should stand by the Islamic Republic of Iran and jointly establish security with significant synergy,” Fars cited Irani as saying.

He did not give further details about the alliance or say when it would become operative. There was no confirmation from the other countries.

Iran’s Ghadir submarine moves in the southern port of Bandar Abbas in Iran, Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (AP/Fars News Agency, Ebrahim Norouzi)

On Wednesday, the UAE “withdrew its participation” in the 38-nation Combined Maritime Forces two months ago, the Emirati foreign ministry said in statement, without giving reasons for the move.

The Bahrain-headquartered CMF was established in 2001, initially as a partnership between 12 nations. It is active in crucial but troubled Gulf waters where tankers have been seized and attacked in recent months.

A spokesperson for the Combined Maritime Forces said the UAE remains a partner nation, despite putting its participation on hold.

“The CMF still includes 38 partner nations, of which the UAE is one,” Commander Timothy Hawkins told AFP.

US Navy personnel stand at attention at the entrance to US 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces in Manama on January 11, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool/AFP)

Iran seized two tankers in a week in late April and early May, including one empty ship that was traveling between the UAE ports of Dubai and Fujairah.

Iran was also accused of launching a drone attack against an Israeli-owned tanker in November 2022, stoking tensions with the United States.

Earlier this month, the US said it was sending reinforcements to the Gulf, which carries at least a third of the world’s sea-borne oil, after what it called increasing harassment by Iran.

The commander of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Vice-Admiral Brad Cooper, later transited through the Strait of Hormuz in a guided-missile destroyer along with British and French naval commanders.

Iran responded by saying it is capable of ensuring the safety of Gulf waters in cooperation with neighboring countries.

“The UAE remains committed to responsibly ensuring the safety of navigation in its seas,” the UAE statement said, adding that the major oil exporter is “committed to peaceful dialogue and diplomatic engagement.”

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