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US, Israel, UAE and Bahrain hold joint Red Sea naval exercise in message to Iran

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A US Navy Martin UAV drone flies over the Gulf waters as the Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) Abdulrahman Al Fadhel takes part in a joint naval exercise between the US 5th Fleet Command and Bahraini forces, October 26, 2021. (Mazen Mahdi/AFP)
A US Navy Martin UAV drone flies over the Gulf waters as the Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) Abdulrahman Al Fadhel takes part in a joint naval exercise between the US 5th Fleet Command and Bahraini forces, October 26, 2021. (Mazen Mahdi/AFP)

The navies of Israel, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain launched a joint exercise in the Red Sea this week, the American military says, in an apparent threat to their shared adversary, Iran.

The exercise comes just over a year after Israel normalized ties with the UAE and Bahrain, a move seen as having been driven in large part by the countries’ shared concerns about Iran and its regional ambitions. Though Israel has conducted exercises alongside the UAE in the past, the drill represents the first ever public military cooperation between Israel and Bahrain.

According to the US military’s Central Command, the five-day exercise will take place at sea and include “visit, board, search and seizure tactics.” The drill will be led by the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which operates throughout the Middle East.

“It is exciting to see US forces training with regional partners to enhance our collective maritime security capabilities,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the 5th Fleet, says in a statement.

Since February, Iran and Israel have been accused of engaging in what analysts have called a naval “shadow war,” in which vessels linked to each nation have come under attack in waters around the Gulf in tit-for-tat exchanges.

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