June 15, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel’s Top General Meets With Arab Counterparts in Bahrain

June 15, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel’s Top General Meets With Arab Counterparts in Bahrain

Latest Developments

The chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Herzi Halevi, met with senior Arab generals in Bahrain this week, Axios reported on June 12. Generals from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt also attended the meeting, which “took place under the auspices of U.S. Central Command [CENTCOM],” led by CENTCOM commander General Michael “Erik” Kurilla. The meeting was not publicized due to “regional political sensitivities around the war in Gaza,” Axios said. Regional governments have repeatedly criticized Israel as the Jewish state pursues its counteroffensive against Hamas in Gaza. However, despite Arab condemnation of Israel, the meeting in Manama suggests that efforts to expand regional security cooperation continue.

Expert Analysis

“Iran wants its adversaries as divided and weak as possible and hopes the war in Gaza will end efforts to build a more capable and unified combined regional security architecture. Israel, the United States, and its Arab partners can’t let that happen. This meeting suggests the respective governments and military leaders understand that the Islamic Republic of Iran represents the real threat to regional security. Tehran and its terror proxies such as Hamas should not have a veto over the ability of Arab governments to work with partners to better defend themselves. Members of Congress should press CENTCOM for updates and milestones related to building an American-Arab-Israeli regional security architecture focused on air and missile defense and maritime security.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“It is not surprising that Arab states continue to engage with Israel regarding regional security despite the ongoing conflict in Gaza. After all, they could be the next target in Iran’s crosshairs.” — Ryan Brobst, FDD Senior Research Analyst

Regional Security Cooperation on Display

Iran launched an unprecedented direct attack against Israel on April 13 and 14, firing over 300 drones and missiles at the Jewish state. The United StatesUnited KingdomFrance, Jordan, and other regional partners helped defend Israel against the Iranian attack. IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said a large majority of the drones and missiles had been intercepted. The Royal Jordanian Air Force also played a modest role in helping defeat the Iranian attack. Additionally, Saudi Arabia and the UAE reportedly provided intelligence support and radar tracking information, suggesting what a more robust combined regional security architecture could accomplish.

Crafting A Regional Security Architecture

In February 2023, senior American government officials traveled to Saudi Arabia to participate in U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Working Group meetings focused on integrated air and missile defense, maritime security, Iran, and counterterrorism. The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The Biden administration has long sought to signal its commitment to the region and advance longstanding efforts to develop a Middle East security architecture. Speaking in Riyadh, then U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana Stroul said in February 2023 that “meaningful integration” is critical because of a “shared assessment between the United States and the GCC of the threats that face us,” primarily those from Iran and its terror proxies.

Eyeing Tehran, U.S. and GCC Partners Seek to Develop Regional Security Architecture,” FDD Flash Brief

Add Israel to the Combined Maritime Forces and its Red Sea task force,” by Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst

The Gulf’s New Regional Vision Makes Room for Israel,” by Eyal Hulata and Natalie Ecanow

Securing Contested Waters: A Conversation with NAVCENT Commander Vice Adm. Cooper,” FDD Event

Expand Israel-Arab-US military drills to counter Iran and its proxies,” by Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst

Issues:

Arab Politics Egypt Gulf States Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Jordan Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy