Iran dossier: The evolution of the calculation of the Iranian threat in the Gulf

Iran File: The Changing Calculation of the Iranian Threat in the Gulf

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader’s awareness.]

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Iran is likely coordinating proxy and partner attacks on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to deter growing Emirati cooperation with Israel. The Houthi movement carried out drone and missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for the first time since 2018 in January 17, 24and 312022. An attack targeted Al Dhafra air base, which Houses about 2,000 US servicemen. An Iranian proxy in Iraq also conducted a drone attack on the United Arab Emirates for the first time on February 2. Iran could coordinate future attacks on the United Arab Emirates and possibly Bahrain for cooperating with Israel, endangering American personnel in those countries.

Iran is responding to increased diplomatic and defense cooperation between Israel and several Gulf states, which began in December 2021. Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates participated in the U.S.-led international maritime exercise in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea from Jan. 31 to Feb. 17. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett*become the first Israeli leader to to visit the United Arab Emirates on December 13 and Bahrain on February 14. Israel Free defense and intelligence assistance to the United Arab Emirates on January 18 and sign a historic defense agreement with Bahrain on February 3.

Iranian media and officials have expressed concern over Israel’s deepening ties with the Gulf and are warning the UAE and Bahrain against further cooperation with Israel. Iranian media started *circulated reports of anti-Iranian coalition led by Israel and supported by the United States in the Gulf after Israel and Bahrain sign a defense agreement on February 3. Iranian media too *alleged that Israel is building an underground military base in the UAE and *called the UAE an “Israeli colony”. Iranian officials reportedly warned Bahrain against allowing an Israeli naval presence in the Gulf, and since *publicly *warned Bahrain against expanding ties with Israel. Iranian officials have historically *called an Israeli military presence in the Gulf a “red line” and *retirement this position over the past few weeks.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) could coordinate new attacks on Gulf states cooperating with Israel and could target US interests in those states in a less likely but more dangerous scenario. Iran could facilitate more attacks on bases hosting US military personnel, as it did in Al Dhafra, or target US personnel in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Iran could coordinate more proxy and partner attacks against the United Arab Emirates and could target Bahrain to deter Abu Dhabi and Manama from further cooperation with Israel. Iran could attack Bahrain by facilitating proxy attacks, facilitating or carrying out cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure, or providing increased financial or military support to Bahraini dissident groups.