A surprise navy drill conducted by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the United States is meant to send a "direct message" to Iran and its "power projection" in the region, a senior Israeli naval official said on Thursday.
"We intend to continue to cultivate relations with the countries participating in the exercise," he said. "The Iranians are quite independent in the maritime space, and it is important to keep their activities away from the State of Israel in order to prevent terrorism."
The exercise — which began Wednesday in the Red Sea — constitutes the first public naval exercise between the U.S. Israel and the two Gulf countries.
"It's far more convenient to cooperate at sea. It is far from prying eyes and one cannot see it from the land," said the official, adding that while additional exercises are planned, the Gulf states may not take part.
"These are the countries with which we have a common enemy after all," he added. "At sea, there are many aspects of consensus, and sometimes this can lead to cooperation and mutual understanding. We need to stall any Iranian entrenchment and this threat is shared by other countries in the region."
The five-day exercise includes training on the USS Portland and will "enhance interoperability between participating forces' maritime interdiction teams", a statement by the United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) said.
"Maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability," said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces.
The U.S. 5th Fleet is based in the Gulf island state of Bahrain and operates in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean
Iran announced on Sunday its own large-scale sea, land and air military drill will be held east of the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, and the northern parts of the Indian Ocean.
"The military exercise in Iran's coast on the Gulf of Oman aims to display the country's military might and readiness to confront our enemies," Rear Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi, the spokesman for the Zolfaqar-1400 drill, told state television.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said any mistake made by Israel would expedite its destruction. Speaking to the local Tasnim news agency, Hajizadeh added that Israel could launch a war, but Iran will finish it.
Video of the drill released by Tehran showed the launch of a Qader ballistic missile which the military claims is able to reach targets up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) away.
UAE's state news agency reported on Thursday that Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed spoke by phone with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. The two discussed bilateral relations and ways to bolster them as well as tackle challenges posed by climate change.