The Iran threat to Arabian Gulf nations has prompted Israel to come to their aid. Bahrain has been the beneficiary lately of that assistance. As early as February 2022, closer ties between Israel and Bahrain have been increasingly evident. Israel Prime Minister Yair Lapid, his predecessor, Naftali Bennett, and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani have been at the forefront of coordinating Israel’s military assistance to the island nation in the Arabian Gulf.
Israel and Peace in the Middle East
Former President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace initiative, called the Abraham Accords, resulted in agreements with several Gulf states. Bahrain was one of those nations. In February, Bennett told the Bahrain state news service Al-Ayyam, “We will fight Iran and its followers in the region night and day. We will aid our friends in strengthening peace, security, and stability, whenever we are asked to do so.”
To further the alliance, Israel has exported modern unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and an accompanying anti-drone defensive system to Bahrain. The type of UAV is not known, but the drones and counter-drone systems are part of a larger regional defense initiative “to further a military alliance to counter Iranian hostility, known as the Middle East Air Defense (MEAD),” Anna Ahronheim reported in The Jerusalem Post. Collaboration between Israel and Bahrain also includes the security services of both nations.
Referring to a Wall Street Journal report, Ahronheim explained: “The Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have also begun to train Bahraini intelligence officers.” Such a move reflects “Israel’s increased presence in the Gulf.” However, the drone deal is just the latest in Israel’s engagements with the signers of the Abraham Accords, the US, Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Furthermore, Israel and Morocco signed an additional memorandum of understanding to hedge against Iran’s hostility, establishing a formal “security cooperation framework” between the countries.
These security agreements are more than justified. The New York Times, in a recent report, tells the story of cooperation between Arab countries and Israel in shooting down two Iranian drones over Arab territories:
“Corroborated by two senior Israeli officials and recordings of the pilots’ communications, the episode exemplified how Israel, once isolated in the Middle East because of Arab solidarity with the Palestinians, is now working increasingly closely with several Arab militaries. It also illustrated how shared fears of Iran now supersede concerns in some Arab governments about the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
If nothing else, Iranian aggression in the Gulf region has created a security-based bonding between Israel and Arab countries few would have imagined just five years ago. Although in its infancy, MEAD has seen some success and has the potential to provide an umbrella of protection against Iran’s drones and missiles. “Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz confirmed on Monday (June 20) that US-sponsored air defense cooperation between Israel and Arab states has already begun. ‘Middle East Air Defense’ is ‘already operative and has already enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries in the region,” Jared Szuba, reported for Al Monitor.
Middle East Air Defense is a logical strategy to establish security alliances in the Gulf region. A coordinated, if not fully integrated, defense against Iranian drones and other airborne threats will create a security alliance in the Middle East among endangered Gulf countries and Israel. Furthermore, as Szuba points out, the value of Israel and MEAD is to help “Arab Gulf states to close gaps in their air defense arrays…as Iran has developed and launched drones as well as cruise and ballistic missiles against US allies in the region.”
Having Israel leading the mutual defense effort in the area puts the responsibility of regional security in the hands of those with the most skin in the game. As a result, coordination will be more efficient, and communications among those Gulf and Middle East countries most at risk are much less likely to be miscommunicated. In addition, Gulf states will benefit from Israeli military technology, and Israel will have a closer association with Gulf countries where Jerusalem has security needs. Overall, Israel lending aid to the Gulf States is a significant step in thwarting Iran’s aggression.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.