Israel is taking part in massive US-led naval exercises in the Middle East alongside Saudi Arabia and Oman, marking the first time Israel is publicly drilling with the two Gulf nations.
The US-led combined International Maritime Exercise 2022 and Cutlass Express 2022 runs from January 31st through February 17th and include the navies of about 60 countries.
Israel has no formal relations with Saudi Arabia or Oman, but the US-brokered normalization agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain have led to more Israeli cooperation with the Gulf countries.
Since the normalization deals were signed, the US has transferred Israel under US Central Command’s area of operations. Previously, Israel fell under US European Command because so many of Washington’s Arab allies did not recognize Israel.
Last November, Israel held its first official joint exercises with the UAE and Bahrain. In the wake of recent Houthi attacks, Israel is reportedly considering selling the UAE the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israel hopes the normalization deals and the military cooperation could lay the groundwork for a potential anti-Iran alliance in the region. But one potential roadblock for the Israelis is the recent diplomatic engagement between Iran and some of the Gulf nations.
In December, the UAE’s national security advisor visited Iran. An Israeli official said at the time that the UAE’s diplomacy with Iran was “worrying” and “not acceptable.”