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Disclosing a Crucial Role of UAE Defense in Shielding Israel Against Iranian Attacks

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U.S. media disclosed a significant Emirati involvement in safeguarding Israel against Iranian assaults conducted last Saturday evening, heightening concerns of a broader regional escalation.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the UAE agreed to share intelligence on the Iranian attack with the United States and Israel, and also assisted Jordan by engaging in military operations to defend against the Iranian assault in its airspace.

According to the newspaper, Iranian missiles and drones were tracked from the moment they were launched by early warning radars in the Arab Gulf states linked to the American Operations Center, which transmitted information to combat aircraft from several countries in the airspace above Jordan and other countries as well.

The report indicated that Iran notified the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, of the general details and timing of its intended large-scale strikes on Israel. This allowed the concerned countries to safeguard their airspace. The information was then passed on to the United States, providing Washington and Israel with crucial advance notice.

The article highlighted that during Saturday night’s events, a defensive network comprising radars, fighter jets, warships, and air defense systems from Israel, the United States, and six other countries was mobilized in response to the anticipated Iranian attack, as hundreds of Iranian drones and missiles traversed the Middle East.

The result is that almost nothing from the Iranian attacks reached Israel.

The massive display of collective defense was the culmination of a decades-long but long-term American goal of forging closer military ties between Israel and its historic Arab adversaries to counter the growing common threat from Iran.

However, the efforts paid by the United States to shield Israel in the days and hours preceding the Iranian attack encountered various hurdles, such as concerns among Gulf states about appearing to support Israel during a period of strained relations, exacerbated by the conflict in Gaza.

Much of the cooperation that brought down the Iranian-directed bombing on Saturday night had to be prepared quickly, and many details about the role played by Saudi Arabia and other key Arab governments are being kept secret so as not to leak to the media.

According to officials, Israeli and American forces successfully intercepted the majority of Iranian drones and missiles, thanks in part to discreet intelligence support from Arab nations on Tehran’s attack strategies. These nations also allowed access to their airspace for warplanes, exchanged radar tracking data, and in certain instances, contributed their forces to aid in the effort.

Officials said the operation was the culmination of years of American efforts to break down political and technical barriers that have thwarted military cooperation between Israel and Sunni Arab governments.

The United States has prioritized informal air defense collaboration throughout the region instead of creating a Middle Eastern counterpart to NATO. This strategy aims to diminish Tehran’s expanding arsenal of drones and missiles, the same weapons that posed a threat to Israel over the weekend.

Attempts to establish a comprehensive air defense system for the region have been ongoing for decades. Following numerous setbacks and limited advancements, the endeavor gained traction after the 2020 Abraham Accords facilitated by the Trump administration. These accords formalized relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

Two years later, the Pentagon transferred Israel from its European command to Central Command, which includes the rest of the Middle East, a move that enabled greater military cooperation with Arab governments under US auspices.

Dana Stroul, formerly the Pentagon’s leading civilian official for the Middle East until December, remarked that Israel’s transition to Central Command marked a pivotal moment, bolstering intelligence exchange and early warning capabilities among multiple countries.

Marine General Frank McKenzie, then the top US commander in the region, held a secret meeting of senior military officials from Israel and Arab countries in March 2022, to explore how to coordinate against Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities.

The discussions, convened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, marked the initial occasion where numerous high-ranking Israeli and Arab officers gathered under American military guidance to address the challenge posed by Iran.

According to a senior Israeli official, the Abraham Accords transformed the landscape of the Middle East, enabling actions to be taken not only covertly but also overtly.

Joining the Central Command allowed for more technical cooperation with Arab governments. “This is what created this alliance,” the official said.

Despite the progress, the U.S. goal of Israel and Arab countries seamlessly sharing real-time tracking data on Iranian threats was never fully achieved due to political concerns, officials said.

Bilal Saab, a former Pentagon official who worked in the field of security cooperation in the Middle East, says that it is too early to talk about security integration in the region.

“It was always gradual, and Saturday’s attacks were an important first step in the real world,” he added.