Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said the U.A.E. remained a “partner” in the force even though it had suspended its participation.
“Regarding their level of participation as a partner, we leave it to our individual partners to speak to that,” he said, adding that the Emirates “withdrew their participation for the moment in the task forces but not their overall membership.”
Pulling back from the group does not leave the U.A.E. defenseless against Iran and other threats.
The headquarters of the Combined Maritime Forces are at the U.S. naval base in Bahrain. The group brings together more than 30 countries that operate in the waters of the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Horn of Africa to protect the flow of commerce and deter illicit activity like piracy. Participation is voluntary.
In April, Iran seized an oil tanker chartered by Chevron as it traveled from Kuwait to Houston. Days later, Iranian speedboats surrounded an oil tanker after it had left Dubai, the biggest city in the Emirates and a global trade hub. The ship was forced to divert to Iranian territorial waters.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region, said this month that American naval warships had increased their patrols through the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf’s busy maritime passageway, in response to the moves by Iran.