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US-Israeli-Emirati-Bahraini naval drill is a message to Iran, says IDF official

The Israeli Navy takes part in the 'Noble Dina' exercise with Greece and Cyprus, in March 2021. (IDF)
Illustrative: The Israeli Navy takes part in the 'Noble Dina' exercise with Greece and Cyprus in March 2021. (IDF)

The joint American-Israeli-Emirati-Bahraini naval exercise being held in the Red Sea serves as a direct response to the Iranian navy’s presence and aggression in the waters of the Middle East, a senior Israeli naval official says.

“This presence is something that we need to push back as much as possible from the State of Israel, from the Red Sea, from the areas that harm our freedom to sail… in order to do that, we need to make our partnerships tighter,” the senior officer tells reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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.

Earlier today, the US Central Command’s 5th Fleet announced that it had launched an exercise in the Red Sea with the navies of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, focusing on “visit, board, search and seizure tactics.”

The exercise, one of the first Israel has held with the 5th Fleet, comes just over a year after Israel normalized ties with the UAE and Bahrain under the Abraham Accords and a few months after Israel moved into the area of responsibility of the US military’s Middle East-focused Central Command.

Though Israel has conducted exercises alongside the UAE in the past, the drill represents the first-ever public military cooperation between Israel and Bahrain.

“This is the first time — at sea — that we’re swapping know-how with Bahrain, with the Emirates about professional, operational techniques,” he says.

“Here the goal is to extend the range of the Israeli Navy’s operations — for the good of the State of Israel and the IDF — to extend our ability to detect [threats], to extend our sailing range, to prevent naval terror, and also to retaliate, when we must, when it’s needed, against what the Iranians are doing,” the officer says.

According to the senior naval official, this exercise is one of many that Israel and the 5th Fleet plan to conduct.

“This exercise is part of a work plan, and you will see more of them in the coming year. They won’t just be bilateral with the Americans. Since the 5th Fleet works with countries that are part of the Abraham Accords, in this exercise, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are taking part,” he says.

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