Israeli Navy holds joint security patrol with US 5th fleet. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit) (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Israeli Navy

Israeli-U.S. naval cooperation is taking on greater importance as Iran’s threat level in the Red Sea continues to rise.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

In January, days before he left the White House, president Donald Trump transferred Israel from the US European Command (EUCOM) area of responsibility to the Central Command (CENTCOM). The move was intended to streamline US-Israeli military cooperation, and catalyze Israeli and Arab collaboration against Iran.

After all, Israel’s biggest threats — Iran, and Hezbollah activities in Syria and Lebanon — come from CENTCOM’s area of responsibility.

So after years of joint drills and exercises with EUCOM, the move means the IDF and CENTCOM forces are “getting to know each other” as they work together for the first time. That’s the significance of the Israeli Navy’s first joint patrol with US Naval Forces Central Command’s 5th Fleet in the Red Sea on Tuesday.

Three Israeli ships, including the INS Eilat, joined up with the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey and its accompanying maritime patrol planes.

The Israelis and Americans drilled several search and rescue scenarios, air defense, tactical defensive maneuvers and more.

An IDF statement described the exercise as the “opening shot” for further cooperation between Israel and the U.S. 5th Fleet.

“The partnership with the Fifth Fleet is a strategic partnership for the security of the region and the security of Israel,” said the head of IDF naval operations Brig.-Gen. Daniel Hagari . “This exercise is the beginning of a cooperation that will expand and increase the circles of defense and security in the maritime space to prevent terrorist acts.”

Iran has been operating in the Red Sea for years, using the waterway to smuggle weapons to Gaza and gather intelligence.

In April, the Saviz, a cargo ship that reportedly served as a floating base for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, was struck by a mine in the Red Sea, between Yemen and Eritrea. The Saviz had reportedly been conducting electronic surveillance and assisting Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Iran claimed the ship aided “anti-piracy” efforts.

In early August, CNN reported that another Iranian vessel, the Behshad, is now stationed in the same area. CNN’s report was based on satellite photographs.

Iran and Israel have engaged in a shadowy war on the high seas. Iranian vessels said to be smuggling weapons or illicit oil have been targeted in mysterious attacks widely presumed to be Israeli. Iran has attacked a number of Israeli tankers in the Gulf of Oman, including a suicide drone strike on the Mercer Street, which killed two people.

Israeli-U.S. naval cooperation is taking on greater importance as Iran’s threat level in the Red Sea continues to rise.