Israel Should Join the U.S. and Its Other Allies in Policing Regional Sea Lanes

January 11, 2023 | Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst
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Last week, the U.S. Navy intercepted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman loaded with thousands of AK-47s, which it was bringing from Iran to Houthi militants in Yemen. The interdiction underscores the importance of policing these waters, a task often shared by the Combined Maritime Task Force, a U.S.-led league of 34 countries that includes such Middle Eastern states as the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, and Egypt. Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst argue that Israel should be invited to join:

Iran has repeatedly attempted to seize American unmanned surface vessels (USVs). On August 29, 2022, the U.S. Navy detected an Iranian ship in the Persian Gulf towing an American USV. When U.S. forces responded, the Iranian vessel cut the line towing the USV and departed. Two days later, another Iranian ship seized two USVs that had been operating in the Red Sea for more than 200 days without incident. Two U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers responded quickly, seeking to recover the USVs. The Iranian crew refused to release them for approximately eighteen hours, eventually relenting the next morning.

Israel shares an interest in countering smuggling and other malign activity in the Red Sea, and it previously conducted naval exercises with Bahrain, the UAE, and the U.S. in those waters focused on “visit, board, search, and seizure tactics.”

The Israeli navy is one of the more capable in the region and has a naval base at Eilat located on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. . . . Israeli naval assets also include dozens of patrol boats operated by crews experienced in detecting and interdicting smuggling operations, especially those conducted by Iranian proxies.

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