Bahrain joins US new task force

Ilya Tsukanov

Earlier this month, the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, responsible for naval operations in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and part of the Indian Ocean, announced the creation of a new naval task force in Bahrain equipped with the latest US airborne, waterborne and underwater military drones.
Bahrain has become the first nation in the Gulf agreeing to “partner with” the US 5thFleet in the accelerated integration of new unmanned military systems, the Fleet’s public affairs department has announced.
In a press statement, the 5th Fleet said that senior Bahraini officials, including the commanders of the Gulf sheikdom’s Coast Guard and Navy, recently met their US counterparts at a US naval installation in Bahrain to discuss expanding cooperation and be shown the latest US military drone vehicles.
“We have an enduring strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Bahrain and our mutual commitment to advancing new unmanned systems demonstrates us strengthening the partnership in a new way,” Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command said during the meeting, according to the statement.
“This initiative enables us to expand maritime domain awareness on, above and below the water to enhance regional deterrence,” Cooper added.
The commander did not specify what countries the US-led forces would be “deterring” against.
Cooper’s comments follows the creation of Task Force 59, a new Mideast-based task force using drone technology and artificial intelligence (AI), earlier this month.
Under the agreement, B-ahraini maritime forces will take part in US-led drills in October to demonstrate the effectiveness of unmanned surface vessels, with additional drills with as yet un-named “regional and coalition partners” expected to take place after that.
The US Navy characterizes the Middle East region’s “unique geography, climate and strategic importance” as “an ideal environment” for the use of its new drones in areas including the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Bab-al-Mandeb Str-ait –three key choke points for international trade.
The unmanned systems set to be used by Task Force 5 are reportedly set to include those tested in April by the Pacific Fleet, including new long-endurance aerial surveillance drones, surface vessels like the Sea Hawk and Sea Hunter, and torpedo-style underwater drones.
Iran has repeatedly urged the US and other extraterritorial countries to stay out of the Persian Gulf, and has urged countries of the region to form an independent security partnership known as the Hormuz Peace Initiative (HOPE). Iran introduced the initiative at the United Nations in 2019, and invited regional countries, including its regional rival Saudi Arabia, to join, but has yet to receive a response.
Tensions between Iran on one side and the US and its allies on the other flare up regularly in the Gulf. This summer, tensions were ratcheted up again after a deadly 29 July drone attack on the Mercer Street, an Israeli-managed oil tanker. Tel Aviv and the US almost immediately accused Iran of responsibility for the act of terrorism. Tehran vocally denied the claims and accused Israel and its allies of engaging in “false flag” operations aimed at starting a regional confrontation or to scuttle US-Iran nuclear negotiations.