Israel took part in a secret, U.S.-initiated meeting of top military officials from throughout the Middle East in Egypt in March in order to discuss combatting the shared threat of Iran’s missile and drone capabilities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
The talks, held at Sharm El Sheikh, included senior military officers from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and two countries with whom Israel does not have relations: Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sent officers to the meeting as well, the report said, and Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command, represented the United States, which convened the gathering.
The Wall Street Journal report said that this meeting was the first time that such a range of senior Arab and Israeli officers were gathered by the United States to talk about a shared threat.
According to the report, it was made possible by a series of regional shifts: fears of Iran shared by the states, strengthened ties under the Abraham Accords as well as Arab states’ desire to acquire Israeli arms and defense technology.
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The recent attacks by Iran and its proxies against Saudi infrastructure and other targets in the Middle East have prompted the coalition of Israel and a number of Arab countries in the region to develop a joint mechanism for detecting and intercepting missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
There has already been security coordination on this matter between the Israeli defense establishment and its peers in some of these countries. This cooperation includes operational coordination, the exchange of relevant intelligence about threats, visits by delegations and joint training between Israeli and foreign air forces.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz told lawmakers last week that what he dubbed the "Middle East Air Defense Alliance" is already operational. "Over the past year I have been leading an extensive program, together with my partners at the Pentagon and in the U.S. administration, that will strengthen the cooperation between Israel and countries in the region," he said, according to an official transcript. "This program is already operative and has already enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries."
Part of the United States’ plan to strengthen Israeli military cooperation with other regional states includes air force cooperation "against Iranian attempts to harm countries in the region with rockets, cruise missiles, and drones,” Gantz said.