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US, UK and Bahrain to conclude trilateral Persian Gulf naval drills

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US, UK and Bahrain to conclude trilateral Persian Gulf naval drills

Sepah NewsAFP via Getty Images
Photo: Sepah News/AFP/Getty

Trilateral US, British and Bahraini naval drills in the Persian Gulf will conclude today.

The purpose of the drills is to practice coordination between different national forces on both securing maritime transport and dealing with the shared threat of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N), which patrols the Persian Gulf. International observers generally consider the IRGC-N more aggressive towards other navies in the Gulf than the more conventional Iranian Navy (IRIN).

These drills follow recent IRGC-N harassment of US naval ships in the Gulf, which coincided with the State Department’s announcement of its intention to reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran, a deal that the IRGC—which frequently interferes in Iranian foreign policy—has long been opposed to.

These exercises alone are unlikely to provoke a significant IRGC-N response, nor is the US, still enmeshed in JCPOA negotiations, likely to follow up on them. Yet, minor retaliatory measures like harassment of US naval ships in international waters are possible in the medium-term. Uncertainty around the JCPOA has only increased with the election of conservative Ebrahim Raisi, and the IRGC may consider building tension in the gulf an effective way to sabotage talks.

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