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Israel to attend U.S.-led maritime security meeting in Bahrain

Participants are seen gathering ahead of the group photo shoot at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on Feb. 14, 2019 during the Middle East summit.
Participants seen gathering ahead of a group photo shoot at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on Feb. 14, during the Middle East summit. Photo: NurPhoto / Contributor/ Getty Images

An official Israeli delegation will attend a U.S.-led maritime security meeting to be held Sunday in Bahrain, intended to focus on countering Iranian threats against shipping routes in the Gulf, Western diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israel and Bahrain do not have full and official diplomatic relations. The Israeli participation in the conference, which will be attended by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman, is another example of the Iranian threat that is bringing Israel and the Gulf states closer together and allowing their government officials to be seen publicly around the same table.

  • It made even more important given this meeting will cover security issues.

Background: The Bahrain maritime security meeting is a follow-up to the U.S.-led anti-Iran conference held in Warsaw in February. Around 60 countries attended that conference and have participated in ongoing meetings since.

The state of play: According to the State Department, the Bahrain meeting on Oct. 21-22 will focus on maintaining maritime and aviation security in the Middle East and promote steps to interdict and prevent shipments of illicit weapons of mass destruction.

  • Eliot Kang, principal deputy assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, will head the U.S. delegation.

What they're saying: The Bahraini ambassador to Washington Abdulla Bin Rashid Al Khalifa wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Times that the meeting in the capital city, Manama, will coincide with the first two days of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's International Maritime Exercise.

  • He added the meeting's goal is "to promote freedom of navigation and the free flow of maritime commerce as well as the detection of threats emanating from an increasingly belligerent Iranian government."

The Israeli delegation will be led by Foreign Ministry officials. The Foreign Ministry did not deny report, and said that, "Israeli is part of the Warsaw process."