In a move reflecting Israel’s increased presence in the Gulf, Jerusalem has sold unmanned aerial vehicles and anti-drone systems to Bahrain, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have also begun to train Bahraini intelligence officers, the report said.
The report comes as US President Joe Biden begins his visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to further a military alliance to counter Iranian hostility, known as the Middle East Air Defense (MEAD).
It was unclear what types of UAVs were sold to the Gulf kingdom. Israel, however, is a leading exporter of drones.
Drone systems and UAVs made up 9% of all exports in 2021, while intelligence, information and cyber systems made up 4%, according to the military exports unit of the Defense Ministry (SIBAT).
Israel's defense deals with Arab allies
Israeli defense officials have held some 150 meetings with their counterparts in the region since the signing of the Abraham Accords in August 2020. The meetings were aimed at increasing military-to-military ties and signing defense deals. Since the signing of the accords, more than $3 billion worth of deals have been arranged, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said last week.
As rocket and drone attacks by Iran against Israel and the Gulf states have increased, talks have focused on understanding how to counter the threats countries in the region are facing.
Israel and Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates have worked together covertly for years against Iran’s hegemony. More recently, official security ties were established and memorandums of understanding (MoU) were signed with Morocco and Bahrain.
The MoUs set a solid security cooperation framework that formalized defense relations between the countries. They allow for increased cooperation in various fields, including intelligence sharing, military-to-military training and cooperation between defense industries.
Bahrain has been of strategic interest to Iran for years. The kingdom has been attacked by terrorist groups organized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, and it continues to face threats from Sunni terrorist groups.
During Gantz’s visit to Manama in February, he said Israel was willing to help defend against such attacks.
Former prime minister Naftali Bennett offered the UAE direct help in countering Iranian drones after a deadly attack on Abu Dhabi. In the months that followed, nearly a dozen C-17 Globemaster large military transport aircraft belonging to the UAE Air Force landed in Israel. They can accommodate payloads of up to 164,900 pounds.
It is unclear why they were in Israel, but there has been speculation that they were likely transporting equipment related to defense contracts signed between the two countries.