A US helicopter carrier anchored off the Israeli Port of Eilat in the Red Sea Monday as US Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are launching joint amphibious exercises.
The drills are one of the first major joint exercises between CENTCOM and the IDF since Israel was transferred from US European Command to CENTCOM’s area of responsibility earlier this year. In August, CENTCOM and Israel held their first joint aerial exercises that involved F-35 fighter jets from both countries.
The US said the amphibious exercises will involve about 500 troops, most of them from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “The troops will take part in a multi-branch exercise for two weeks, in which they will train with counter-terrorism forces, commando forces and expose-attack forces, simulating warfare techniques in open areas and urban environments,” the IDF said, according to The Times of Israel.
Israel previously was covered under EUCOM since it did not have formal relations with many US allies in the Middle East. The Trump administration ordered Israel to be moved under CENTCOM in January of this year in light of Israel normalizing with the UAE and Bahrain.
Last week, the IDF sent a representative to CENTCOM headquarters in Florida, solidifying the change. The idea is to make it easier for the US, Israel, and the Gulf states to cooperate more easily against Iran.
“Through cooperation in training, intelligence and operational planning, we will continue to tackle current challenges, chief among them the Iranian threat. I have no doubt that the joint work with CENTCOM and Gulf countries will continue to lead Israel and its security to great achievements,” an IDF officer said last week.
Over the past few months, Israel has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran and is constantly threatening to attack, and the US has joined in on the threats. On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken would not rule out military action in the event that the Iran nuclear deal is not salvaged.