Members of the Joint Peninsula Shield, a Gulf military alliance, will hold a naval training exercise early next week, the UAE’s state-run news agency has said.
The 29-30 April drill, dubbed 'Islands of Loyalty', will “test the harmony and coordination among ground, air and naval forces and their readiness and abilities to carry out special, limited and major missions along coasts and islands within the territorial waters in light of the current developments,” WAM reported.
GCC governments are expected to increase the frequency of joint military training exercises as the political situation in the region escalates, said Theodore Karasik, a Dubai-based defence and security analyst.
“The Peninsula Shield has become the leading force in the GCC not only within GCC matters but protecting the GCC in itself and the force is going to grow dramatically so it is correct for them to begin more joint training for different types of scenarios as the situation in the neighbourhood gets tense,” he said.
“It [the Peninsula Shield] is going to grow by about 10-30,000 [troops],” he added. “It’s a major objective to have this up and running and robust.”
The military exercises come amid mounting tensions between the GCC and Iran.
Earlier this month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an official visit to Abu Musa, one of three disputed islands claimed by both Iran and the UAE.
His visit prompted strong condemnation from not only governments within the GCC, but also the US, France, Italy and others.
The Emirati government has since said it would be willing to take the dispute to international arbitration if the UAE and Iran cannot negotiate the issue diplomatically.
Troops from the GCC were dispatched to Bahrain in March last year to help quell mass protests by mostly Shi'ite Muslim demonstrators demanding democracy and equal rights from the Sunni monarchy.
Prior to Bahrain, GCC troops were last deployed in Kuwait during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and in the 1990-1991 Gulf War.
The Joint Peninsula Shield, officially created in 1982, has units from all the GCC countries.
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