Israel and UAE take part in joint air force exercise

IAF fighter jets during the Red Flag joint exercise at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada in 2016 (Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office)

Israel is currently holding a second joint air force exercise with the United Arab Emirates, a year after Israel set up a diplomatic mission in the oil-rich Gulf State which, like Israel, is staunchly opposed to Islamist aggression.

Last year’s exercise took place in Nevada in the United States and the current one is in Greece alongside American and Italian air forces.

Israel and the UAE share a common enemy, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 2016 speech.

“Major Arab countries are changing their view of Israel… they don’t see Israel anymore as their enemy, but they see Israel as their ally, especially in the battle against militant Islam,” he said.

According to the Hellenic [Greek] Air Force, the International Joint Medium Scale Air Force Exercise is called Iniohos 2017 and consists of complex air operations across the geographical area. It will continue until April 6.

“Multinational training engagements such as these strengthen our relationships, maintain joint readiness and interoperability, and reassure our regional Allies and partners,” said the U.S. Army in a statement.

The drills include maneuvers to avoid surface-to-air missiles, air combat practice, as well as ground strike sorties.

UAE, whose population is 90 percent Sunni, is comprised of seven emirates and is home to many Iranians. The emirates are not always unified in their stance towards their expansionist neighbor Iran, which is over 90 percent Shiite. However, in general, the UAE considers Iran “a direct military threat,” according to Robert Einhorn, Brookings Senior Fellow in the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative and the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. Einhorn argues that the UAE, like Saudi Arabia, relies on the U.S. for its security, despite its own considerable resources, and hence has much in common with the Jewish state. Netanyahu has identified Iran as the single most dangerous threat and sponsor of terrorism.

While UAE and Israeli pilots fly together, Israeli passport holders are prohibited from even entering the UAE because the two countries do not have diplomatic ties, such are the ironies and inconsistencies of the 21st Century Middle East. The 2016 establishment of a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi (a UAE emirate) was under the auspices of the United Nation’s International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and hence not a prohibited mission. Meanwhile reports appear occasionally regarding unofficial diplomacy taking place between the two countries.

In contrast, neighboring Qatar has allied itself much more closely with the Palestinians,  setting up its own mission in Gaza and by default allying itself with the Iranians, who fund, train and arm Hamas.

While concerned with threats from Iran and Hamas, Israel also has an eye on Syria as missiles have been fired from there in the past few months. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is closely allied Iran.

These joint air exercises are symbolic as Israel develops cooperation with key Islamic states. Several Islamic teachers hold that Muslims should destroy the Jews and that short-term alliances are permissible only if they are made with the ultimate goal of overcoming the enemy in a Trojan Horse type strategy. This engenders disagreement within Muslim nations between those who see benefit in embracing Israel and those who do not.