Forces assigned to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Israel, and US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) began conducting a multilateral maritime security operations exercise in the Red Sea on Wednesday, the US navy reported. This is the first naval exercise that involves the first two Arab states that signed the Abraham Accords to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel last year.
The five-day exercise includes at-sea training aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) focused on visit, board, search, and seizure tactics. The training will enhance interoperability between participating forces’ maritime interdiction teams.
The drill takes place against the backdrop of a large-scale military exercise that Iran has been conducting in recent days in the Gulf. Earlier on Thursday, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Air and Space Forces, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, threatened that “any mistake by Israel in dealing with Iran will lead to the acceleration of its destruction.”
Hajizadeh told the Tasnim news agency that Israel could start a war, but Iran would end it. The Iranian exercise involves the Islamic Republic’s land, sea, and air forces, and Iranian media have glorified their military capabilities, including the launch from the shore of a Kadir cruise missile, which Iran claims can hit targets at a distance of up to 300 km.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, the US 5th Fleet, and the Combined Maritime Forces, said on Thursday that “it is exciting to see US forces training with regional partners to enhance our collective maritime security capabilities. Maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability.”
The US 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean, and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb.