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Countering ‘imminent threats,’ US builds air and maritime defense systems in Middle East

Expanding defense infrastructure taking place as security cooperation increases between Israel and key players in the Sunni Arab world

Ships from partner nations of Combined Task Force North participate a 60-nation International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express 2022 (IMX/CE22), in the Arabian Gulf, in this photo released by the U.S. Navy on Feb. 10, 2022. (Photo: U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/1st Class Anita Chebahtah/Handout via REUTERS)

Washington is strengthening its air and maritime defense systems in the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, said a U.S. official at a Middle East security summit in Bahrain on Sunday.

National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, in an address at the annual Manama Dialogue 2022 summit, said the U.S. is focused on thwarting “imminent threats” from Iran and its terrorist proxies in the politically volatile region. 

“The United States is now actively building and enabling an integrated air and maritime defense architecture in this region,” McGurk said, “Something long talked about is now being done, through innovative partnerships and new technologies.”

The official noted that increased security cooperation between Washington and its regional allies was likely the main reason Iran abandoned its plans to launch a new attack against Saudi Arabia. 

“That attack likely did not emerge because of the close security cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States, which is ongoing and continuous,” he said.

In early November, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia went on high alert after intelligence warnings revealed the threat of an imminent Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia. A U.S. National Security Council spokesperson confirmed that Washington was closely cooperating with its Saudi counterparts. 

“We are concerned about the threat picture, and we remain in constant contact, through military and intelligence channels, with the Saudis. We will not hesitate to act in the defense of our interests and partners in the region,” the spokesperson said

Speaking at the Manama Dialogue summit on Saturday, U.S. Central Command commander, Gen. Michael Kurilla said the U.S. military would have more than 100 unmanned surface and subsurface vessels operating together in the Persian Gulf region by this time next year.

Last week, Iran was blamed for a bomb-carrying drone attack on an Israeli-owned oil tanker off the coast of Oman. 

Addressing the audience at the Bahrain summit, Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata defined Iran as Israel’s “most prominent security threat.” 

Israeli officials have urged Washington and its European allies to abandon plans to forge a new nuclear agreement with Iran; however, the protracted negotiations over such a deal recently stalled because of a lack of compliance by Iran and growing disagreements between the two sides. 

“Enough with futile talks in Vienna. Even the people of Iran are saying enough,” said Hulata, a reference to the Iranian regime’s lethal crackdown that has claimed more than 300 civilian lives, including women and children. 

The U.S. expansion of defense infrastructure in the Middle East is occurring at a time of unprecedented security cooperation between Israel and key players in the Sunni Arab world. 

In March 2022, an emerging Arab-Israeli defense alliance began taking shape, designed to counter the growing missile and drone threat that Iran and its terrorist proxies pose. The Arab-Israeli cooperation was being coordinated with American forces in the region. 

At the time, U.S. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the U.S. Fifth Fleet and the 34-nation Combined Maritime Forces, welcomed the exercises which brought together U.S. vessels with vessels from Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. 

“It is exciting to see U.S. forces training with regional partners to enhance our collective maritime security capabilities,” he said. “Maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability,” Cooper said. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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