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US, UAE come together for 'Iron Union 9' drill

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh

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Emirati tanks take part in a military parade. The UAE's al-Dhafra Brigade on Monday (December 17th) kicked off a three-day joint exercise with the US army in al-Hamra region. [Photo circulated on social media]

The US Army and the UAE's al-Dhafra Brigade on Monday (December 17th) kicked off a three-day joint exercise in the UAE's al-Hamra region to increase combat readiness and enhance their ability to respond to security threats.

The timing of "Iron Union 9", which will continue through December 19th, is significant given developments in the Middle East in general and the Gulf in particular, experts told Al-Mashareq.

"The Iron Union 9 joint training exercise is an extension of the 'Iron Claw' series of joint exercises," said Col. Rashid Mohammed al-Marri, formerly of the Dubai Police Anti-Narcotics Department.

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US and UAE forces take part in 'Iron Union 5', a previous joint military exercise that is part of an ongoing series of joint training drills. [Photo circulated on social media]

Joint drills have been conducted in recent years with the aim of enhancing the military, combat and logistical capabilities of both sides, he told Al-Mashareq.

These exercises also contribute towards enhancing the co-ordination and support aspects of joint military action in the event of any emergency, he said.

"The exercises are conducted as part of the military agreements between the two sides, which centre on armament, training and raising combat efficiency," al-Marri said.

The Iron Union 9 exercises "are important for al-Dhafra Brigade because they are conducted with live ammunition", he said, which means they simulate real-life combat situations and raise the brigade's efficiency.

High level of readiness

Al-Dhafra is one of the most important military units in the UAE and is assigned tasks and missions "that require it to be at the highest level of readiness in order to respond quickly to any security or military emergency", he said.

The tasks entrusted to the brigade, headquartered at al-Dhafra base, include securing the country’s maritime and land borders, al-Marri said.

To this end, he said, the ongoing drill is helping to ensure seamless co-ordination of air and artillery support for the brigade during its combat missions.

"The UAE bears great military responsibilities related to maritime security in the Gulf region and monitoring the coasts and territorial waters," he said.

"The tasks assigned to the military forces in the Gulf region include combating and preventing piracy and smuggling," Ajman University faculty of law professor Khalid al-Zubi told Al-Mashareq.

Piracy and smuggling are a key source of revenue for armed gangs and terror groups, he explained, adding that military exercises help raise the level of combat readiness to thwart such activities.

Vigilance to potential threat

"The joint exercises by the US and UAE forces come at a very important time as the Gulf region is going through a very sensitive period with regard to its security," said former Saudi military attaché Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Shehri.

He noted escalated Iranian rhetoric following the reinstatement of US sanctions.

This calls for vigilance in anticipation of any Iranian attempt to breach the sanctions or divert attention from them, he told Al-Mashareq.

The joint exercises enable the participating forces "to acquaint themselves with the common methods and tactics required in any emergency", he said.

They present an opportunity for the UAE to learn the latest US military tactics and military planning methods and techniques to boost their combat capabilities and increase their experience, al-Shehri said.

This "will reflect positively on their performance on real military missions", he added.

Because the drill is conducted with live ammunition, he said, this "lends realism and seriousness to exercises".

This is vital for the soldiers, "especially new recruits, who lack real combat experience", he said.

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