Israel will “soon” appoint a military attache to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, says the Israeli ambassador to Manama, as diplomats from the Persian Gulf country and three other Arab states attend a meeting in the Negev desert in occupied Palestine.
“This will happen soon – an attache to the fleet,” Eitan Naeh told Israel’s Army Radio. “It is in the midst of various bureaucratic processes. I reckon that, by the summer, we will have a fuller staff, along with other officials who will join the embassy.”
Last month, the Israeli minister of military affairs, Benny Gantz, visited the US fleet in Bahrain and met with its commander, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, and Bahraini naval commanders.
Bahrain, a tiny island in the Persian Gulf and a former Iranian province, is some 300 kilometers to the south of the coastal Iranian province of Bushehr, which hosts a key nuclear power plant.
In Tehran, an Israeli presence so close to the Bushehr nuclear site is deemed a threat to the country’s national security, as the regime in Tel Aviv has in the past covertly carried out acts of sabotage against Iran’s nuclear facilities and assassinated Iranian scientists while overtly threatening to launch attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
On Sunday, top diplomats from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt, the United States, and Israel met in the Negev desert to press ahead with a US-brokered normalization of relations between the Arab states and the Israeli regime.
Egypt was the first Arab country to have diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, while the UAE and Bahrain reached normalization agreements with Israel in 2020 through the mediation of former US President Donald Trump’s administration.
Morocco and Sudan later reached similar US-brokered deals, which have been roundly condemned by Palestinians as a brazen betrayal of their cause.
US, Israel launch naval exercise
Also on Sunday, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the Israeli Navy launched a 10-day maritime exercise in the Red Sea.
The drill, dubbed Intrinsic Defender, focuses on maritime security operations, explosive ordnance disposal, health topics, and unmanned systems integration.
Over 300 American personnel as well as US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67), dry cargo ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8), and various unmanned vessels are also scheduled to participate in the exercise.
The drill comes amid Washington’s diminishing role in the region, including its withdrawal from Afghanistan and a change in its role in Iraq from military to advisory under the pressure of Iraqi resistance groups.
The US military is also expected to be expelled from Syria, where it has retained an illegal military presence throughout a foreign-sponsored conflict that began in 2011.
Observers believe Washington is scaling down its presence in the Middle East to focus on a large-scale confrontation with China, which is poised to soon overtake the US economically.