A US general told media on Saturday that American aircrews currently in the region for the Dubai Airshow will be held over in the region.
Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot, commander of the Ninth Air Force and the top US Air Force general in the Middle East, said that in light of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, the US military presence in other areas in the region “could adjust.”
“But I don’t see any scenario where the United States does not have an important role,” Guillot said. “The collaborative defense of multiple countries, you know, in the region is going to be our key to detecting those and staying one step ahead of the threat as it evolves.”
The US Air Force maintains a major airbase in Qatar for all its operations in the region.
Guillot noted the increased threat of drone attacks though he stopped short of attributing this to the influence of Iran. Drones have been used with devastating effect by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against Saudi Arabia and by Iranian-backed militias against US troops in Iraq.
Guillot said joint air drills with Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates could be held soon.
This would mark a recent trend in which the US leads these countries in increasingly close military cooperation. The four countries recently held an unprecedented joint five-day naval exercise in the Red Sea. Last month, Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets escorted an American B-1 bomber that flew over Israeli territory on its way to the Persian Gulf.
Under President Trump, the Pentagon rearranged its global command structure, including Israel under the US Central Command that overseas military relations and operations across the Middle East. Israel had previously been under the US European Command because of the hostile nature of its relations with many Arab countries.
Military cooperation between Israel and the two Persian Gulf Arab countries came after the common threat posed by Iran led to the signing of the Abraham Accords last year. Morocco and Sudan were also parties to the normalization treaties. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will pay an official visit to Morocco, also a participant in the Abraham Accords. Gantz is set to sign security cooperation agreements with Morocco.
The Biden administration has tried to reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and negotiations are slated to be held in Vienna at the end of the month. However a recent report claimed that despite the Biden administration’s efforts to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal at any cost, all involved parties are beginning to openly acknowledge that said deal will not materialize.
Israel has maintained the right to counter Iran’s nuclear threat with military action. Preparations toward this end have become a priority for the Israeli military.
The Dubai Airshow opened on Sunday with over 100 US companies in attendance to show off their military aviation wares. Thanks to the Abraham Accords, this was the first show to which Israeli companies were invited. The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries company showed off a range of manned and unmanned naval and aerial drones.
Russia was also in attendance, showing off its Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate fighter jet, considered to be the competitor of the US-built F-35 stealth fighter. Guillot emphasized the importance of US allies relying on equipment that is “interoperable” with US hardware. Guillot said buying the Russia fighter “absolutely” would affect that.
This became an issue in 2019 when Turkey placed an order for the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense systems which were designed specifically to combat the F-35. The US government removed Turkey from the F-35 program in response.
Guillot’s first visit to Israel was in February with the stated purpose of being to promote operational interests, continue to develop channels of cooperation, and to maintain and deepen the relationship between the militaries.