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Israel Reportedly Deployed Radars to the UAE and Bahrain, Angering Iran  

Israel has deployed radars to its ally countries in the Gulf region, Israel’s Channel 12 has reported.

“Israel has deployed radar systems in several countries in the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain,” according to the Channel 12 report that no longer appears on its website, but has been cited by numerous news websites and media outlets. The radar systems were deployed to counter the threat of ballistic missiles from Iran, according to the report.

The commander of the Navy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri, warned during a weekend visit to one of the islands under Iranian control located close to the Emirati coast that any country that brings “the Zionist regime,” meaning Israel, to the region “will destabilize, disturb and create insecurity for both himself and this region.”

“We advise our friendly and brotherly neighbors in the Persian Gulf not to establish contact with the Zionist regime, because this will harm the security of the region,” he said.

Also on Thursday, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the US Congress seeking to create a defense cooperation alliance with Israel, some Gulf countries and other US Middle Eastern allies such as Egypt and Jordan.

If it passes, the bill mandates the Pentagon to present a strategic plan for integrating the air defense capabilities of Israel and the Arab Gulf countries.

The radar deployment allegations are yet to be confirmed by Israel, the UAE, or Bahrain.

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz made his first official visit to Bahrain in February, where he signed security agreements with his Bahraini counterpart Lt. Gen. Abdullah Bin Hassan Al Noaimi. Days later, BATS, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced that Israel would sell radars and anti-drone systems to Bahrain.

If the claims of radar deployment are true, then the radars were stationed there to counter missile threats from Iran and to provide early warning capability, Dr. Eyal Pinko, a retired Israeli naval commander and an expert in intelligence, cybersecurity and national security, told The Media Line.

It would also serve the political objective of demonstrating that Israel is a reliable security partner, potentially encouraging other reluctant Arab states to establish similar relations with Israel

The radars can detect cruise missiles, drones and ballistic missiles that have been launched from Iran, giving Israel’s interceptors systems, such as Arrow-3 and David’s Sling, time to react, Pinko explained.

He says that, if true, the move involves the United States too. “I assess that this move is well coordinated with the US and probably even funded by the US. The US has shares in the Israeli systems such as Arrow-2 and 3,” Pinko said.

He added that it also signals that Israel will help defend the UAE and Bahrain from the Iranian threat.

Addressing the threat of airborne attacks, whether in the form of guided missiles, rockets or UAVs, has risen to the top of the Gulf states’ list of defense priorities, Dr. Hasan Alhasan, a research fellow for Middle East Policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain, told The Media Line.

“Precision airborne attacks targeting the Gulf states’ critical infrastructure including oil facilities, water desalination plants, airports and other sites, has become a preferred tactic of Iran and its armed non-state partners in the region in recent years,” he said.

That is why, according to Alhasan, the UAE and Bahrain would both see a clear benefit in deploying advanced radar technology, in order to enhance their ability to identify and respond to such threats.

From the Israeli perspective, it could be very beneficial as well.

An Israeli involvement in air defense in the Gulf would enhance its awareness of Iran’s activities in the area, Alhasan explained.

“It would also serve the political objective of demonstrating that Israel is a reliable security partner, potentially encouraging other reluctant Arab states to establish similar relations with Israel,” he added.

Other than benefits in the security and geopolitical arenas, the deployment of such radars could also bring economic benefits to Israel.

“The Gulf states, which are major importers of arms and defense systems, are also a potentially lucrative market for Israel’s defense industrial sector,” Alhasan said.

He explains that, despite the benefits, the Israeli presence in the Gulf region could exacerbate tension with Iran.

Pinko also expects this to raise tension between Iran and the involved Gulf countries, including the UAE and Bahrain.

Iran will not stay silent, he said, “and probably in the near future, we will see more attacks against those countries, such as cyberattacks and attacks against merchant ships.”

Ghanem Rafeh, a researcher on Iranian affairs at the Emirates Policy Center in Abu Dhabi, told The Media Line that, with such a deployment of radar systems, Iran likely will see that its interests in the region are being harmed.

Even if any hypothetical agreement is defensive in nature, he said, “from an Iranian perspective, it reduces the threat posed by Iran and its proxies in the region, thus causing a loss of a strategic advantage.”

However, Rafeh continued, “the UAE’s stance has always been that the Abraham Accords are not meant to target any specific country in the region.”

Alhasan noted that the UAE and Bahrain would handle differently Iran’s reaction to the alleged radar deployment.

“The UAE has pursued a hedging strategy in dealing with Iran,” he said.

While the UAE has sought to activate high-level security contact with Iran, not least through the visit of UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Tehran in December 2021, it also has invested in its military capabilities and shored up its relations with Iran’s adversaries in the region, most notably Israel, Alhasan explained.

If rumors of an Israeli radar deployment are true, he said, “I suspect that the UAE would seek to provide reassurances to Iran that the move is not directed against Iranian interests, irrespective of how convincing Iran might find such reassurances to be.”

By contrast, Alhasan continued, “Bahrain has ruptured diplomatic relations with Iran and is less likely to attempt to provide reassurances.”