Iran couldn't have been happy to see forces from Bahrain, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. Navy training together for the first time in history. Last week's five-day drill in the Red Sea was intended to enhance interoperability among the countries, but also sent a strong message to Tehran: There's now a large, organized bloc of countries opposed to its ambitions of regional hegemony. The bloc's nexus is Israel.
The Abraham Accords—which Israel, the U.A.E. and Bahrain signed in September 2020—smoothed the way for last week's joint exercise. Since the Cold War, Israel has been a part of the U.S. European Command's area of responsibility rather than that of Central Command, which stretches from Egypt to Kazakhstan. Though it makes more geographic sense for Israel to be included in Centcom, doing so would have upset the many countries in that area of responsibility that until recently didn't recognize Israel. If the Centcom forces trained with Israel, many other regional allies would have refused to conduct joint exercises. The Abraham Accords altered the geopolitical landscape. In January the U.S. announced Israel would become a part of Centcom's area of responsibility, making it easier for the U.S. to organize joint military drills in Israel.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.