Defense Minister Gantz visits US 5th Fleet on Bahrain visit

“We will always be at our best when we are in a partnered effort,” stated fleet commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022.  (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022.
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the US Navy’s 5th fleet on Thursday during his historic visit to Bahrain. 

Gantz took part in a trilateral meeting with his Bahraini counterpart  and US 5th fleet Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper who said that “we will always be at our best when we are in a partnered effort.”

The Defense Minister visited the USS Cole that was struck by a Al Qaeda suicide attack in 2000 that killed 17 sailors and injured 39 more. 

Welcoming the “long standing partnership” between the US Navy and Israel, Gantz said that “deepening cooperation will help defend against the common enemy of Israel, the United States and Bahrain” who have common interests and shared values. 

According to Gantz, the Abraham Accords and Israel’s move to CENTCOM, the work with the 5th fleet has increased and is reflected in this “significant” visit. 

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, January 3, 2022.  (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM) Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, January 3, 2022. (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

“We will continue working together so this region can enjoy peace, prosperity and security,” he said, adding that it is a “strategic necessity” against maritime and other threats in the region. 

Gantz’s visit to the base, sends a clear message to Iran as it  is less than 200 kilometers from rhe Islamic Republic’s Bushehr nuclear plant.
“The fact that we can land here in an Israel Air Force plane and visit, together with our partners, with the Commander of the Navy and talk openly about issues of defense for the security of the region is a significant milestone,” Gantz said. 

The US 5th Fleet’s area of operations encompasses some 2.5 million square miles and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb. 

Cooper told The Jerusalem Post that “the importance of today is the strengthening of Israeli-Bahrani military ties.”

“Having people and nations come together in a partnered way with a common vision is always a great strength. We will clearly always be better off when we are teaming together. 

Though Israel and the US Navy have worked closely together for decade, “The Abraham Accord signing and the shift to CENTCOM by Israel from EUCOM and now us taking advantage of that orientation to strengthen maritime security, those two things didn’t exist before and they exist now and we will take advance of that,” Cooper said. 

  Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022.  (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY) Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022. (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)

When asked if the US is concerned that Iranian attack could increase, he told The Post that troops “have to be vigilant and that’s our job, everyday, to be vigilant. We operate in accordance to international law throughout the region and as we have always done, we will remain on our toes and stay prepared.”

Cooper denied that USS Cole was chosen as any sort of sign, saying that “it was deployed to the region” and that “there was a little bit of randomness that this was the ship deployed to the region and one of the ships available. It is also one of our capital ships in the Navy and we want to showcase our capability and strength and it’s a great platform to do that.”

The visit to the 5th fleet comes as Israel is taking part, for the first time, in the largest American-led naval drills with 60 other naval fleets, including countries that Israel does not have ties with. 

“The Israeli Navy will join 60 naval fleets for the US Navy-led "IMX" International Naval Exercise,” the IDF said. “For the first time, our Flotilla 3 & Underwater Warfare Unit will train with US 5th Fleet in the Red Sea. We look forward to strengthening security & global cooperation.”

Known as the International Maritime Exercise (or IMX), more than 9,000 personnel and up to 50 ships from more than 60 militaries and international organizations will take part in the exercise that will focus on unmanned naval systems and the use of artificial intelligence.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022.  (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM) Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022. (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Iran has been attempting to entrench itself not only on land in the region but also at sea where it has used drones and other platforms to carry out attacks.

With tensions high in the region due to escalating Iranian hostility, there have been several clashes between the 5th Fleet and Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf. Tehran is also working to increase its maritime capabilities and modernize the Navy by upgrading its existing fleet of surface vessels and new submarines.

Though it mainly operates in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, the Iranian Navy has been recently trying to expand to the Red Sea.

The visit comes as the United States announced that it is sending advanced jet fighters and a guided-missile destroyer to the United Arab Emirates to help it counter the threats posed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels that have been launching missiles and drones to the Emirati nation. 

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022.  (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY) Defense Minister Benny Gantz visiting the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, February 3, 2022. (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and said that the move “is a clear signal that the US stands with the UAE as a longstanding strategic partner.”

The report said that in addition to the fighter jets and destroyer, Washington will also provide early-warning intelligence to identify Houthi launch sites and will continue to operate Patriot missile defense systems to intercept the Houthi missiles. 

Due to the increasing threat posed by the Hourhis, who last fired missiles towards Abu Dhabi during Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit, the State Department has issued a new advisory urging Americans to avoid travel to the UAE.