Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi yesterday stressed that any Israeli role in a maritime alliance in the Gulf is a “clear threat” to Iran’s national security, stressing that Iran has the right to counter it, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
Mousavi’s statement came after confirmation by Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz during a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Tuesday that Israel will participate in a US-led military alliance claiming to “guarantee” maritime security in the Gulf.
Katz explained that the Israeli government is “contributing” to the mission with intelligence and other “important capabilities”.
The foreign minister also claimed that Israel has a strategic interest in ensuring the security of maritime navigation in the Gulf, as part of its aim to curb Iranian threats in the region and strengthening relations with Gulf states.
This may be the first time that Israel has officially announced its participation in a military alliance with a number of Arab countries, as media reports and statements by US officials suggest that the US plan to establish a naval alliance will include Gulf states.
In this context, Ron Ben-Yishai, a military analyst for Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth, noted that Israel’s contribution to the security alliance will involve securing maritime navigation in Bab-el-Mandeb, a narrow strip of water between Yemen and Djibouti.
Ben-Yishai explained that this would include the deployment of Israeli warships equipped with missiles in the strait, ostensibly against pirates in the Red Sea, but with the main objective of securing navigation against the threat reportedly posed by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
On Thursday, the US began implementing its mission to protect the Gulf. The US is however still struggling to form a coalition, which only the UK and Israel have so far publicly joined in the face of what the US calls the “Iranian threat”.
However, the Iranian Defence Ministry has warned of the danger of Washington’s attempt to play the role of police officer in the Strait of Hormuz, and is in turn trying to form an alliance to confront any US maritime coalition.
The French and German positions are still unclear on participation in the alliance, despite the UK’s decision to participate after Boris Johnson was last month appointed prime minister. The UK’s stance is starkly different from the position of most European states, which have distanced themselves from the US plan.
The idea to form a security alliance to protect maritime security in the Straits of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb was expressed for the first time on 9 July by the Chairperson of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. This came following a series of attacks on oil tankers and the shooting down of US surveillance aircraft by Iran near the Strait of Hormuz in recent months.
Thus far, US officials have reached out to officials from 62 countries to discuss the possibility of forming a coalition under the pretext of “securing” international freedom of navigation in the Gulf, the Oman Sea and the Red Sea.
In this context, South Korean news agency Yonhap yesterday mentioned that US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, had asked South Korea to send troops to join a US-led naval force in the Strait of Hormuz.
The news agency added that Esper made the request during a meeting with South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo. Jeong told his US counterpart that Seoul is considering several options, as South Korean citizens also use the Strait.