US plans big naval exercise with Arab allies near Iran

DUBAI: The United States and its Arab allies will stage a joint naval exercise in the Persian Gulf in May to counter rising Iranian military influence in the strategically important waters, reports said on Monday.

Representatives from more than 30 nations will join Pro-US Arab allies in Bahrain for the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 13 from May 6-30, eight months after they staged a previous edition of the exercises at a time when tension between Israel and Iran was at its peak.

Amid heightened tension with the West over Tehran’s nuclear development programme in 2012, Iranians conducted series of military exercises near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow exit route through which most of the World’s oil and gas passes.

Such threats have faded over the last few months, as world powers have tried to resolve their differences with Tehran through negotiations.

In addition to minesweeping and flying drones, this year’s event will include escorting ships and protecting offshore terminals that oil and gas exporters in the Gulf rely on.

US Commander Jason Salata said the exercises in May would be limited to the Gulf and Gulf of Oman and focus on protecting critical infrastructure such as offshore oil assets.

There were no exercises planned in the Strait of Hormuz itself because it could be disruptive to normal shipping through the narrow shipping lanes. “It will be simulating convoy type situations but not in the Strait itself,” Salata said.

Last September’s exercises included Britain and France, some unnamed Middle Eastern states, and countries from as far apart as Estonia and New Zealand. The names of the countries taking part in the exercises this May have not been announced.

US jet crashes in Arabian Sea

In a separate development, a US fighter jet crashed into the North Arabian Sea after an engine failure on Monday but both crew were recovered unharmed, the US Navy said.

The F/A-18F Super Hornet was flying near the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier when a mechanical failure forced the crew to eject. The exact location of the crash was not given but the Northern Arabian Sea bordered by Pakistan to the north and Oman to the west. Agencies

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