US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced Saturday that a US-led task force will deploy over 100 unmanned vessels to the Persian Gulf by 2023 as part of a regional effort against Iran.
“By this time next year, Task Force 59 will bring together a fleet of over 100 unmanned surface and subsurface vessels operating together, communicating together and providing maritime domain awareness,” CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Kurilla said at a conference in Bahrain.
Task Force 59 is based in Bahrain, the home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The announcement came after the US and Israel accused Iran without evidence of a drone attack on an oil tanker near Oman.
Kurilla said that the greatest threat in the region was the development of “adversary drones.” Besides deploying the drone boats to the region, Kurilla said CENTCOM was also “building an experimentation program here in the Middle East to beat adversary drones with our partners.”
The US is looking to foster cooperation between Israel and its Arab allies against Iran, which has become possible since Israel signed normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020. Israel is hoping to build a regional alliance with the Gulf Arab states, but it will take time, as some are still hesitant to collaborate openly with Israel.
Israel’s planned alliance focuses on the idea of integrated air defenses. Brett McGurk, President Biden’s top Middle East official on the National Security Council, said at the same conference in Bahrain that the US is “actively building and enabling an integrated air and maritime defense architecture in this region.”
The US effort to increase military cooperation against Iran comes as nuclear deal talks have been stalled for months, and tensions are soaring between Washington and Tehran. The US has been increasing sanctions on Iran and expressing support for anti-government protesters inside the country.
The Pentagon’s recently issued Nuclear Posture Review acknowledged that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, but that hasn’t stopped Biden administration officials from threatening Tehran over the issue. Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, said that the US would use military action as a “last resort” to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb.