Joint exercises help the Gulf states consolidate their military operations and are key to countering the threat from Iran, which has been attempting to expand its sphere of influence in the region, military experts told Al-Mashareq.
Military units from Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) member states on Saturday (March 9th) concluded the "Island Shield 10" joint exercises in Saudi Arabia, which had kicked off on February 23rd.
"The expansionism that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is trying to impose in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf region, can only be countered by building a joint Gulf defence strategy to be its main deterrent," said Saudi military expert Mansour al-Shehri.
The threat posed by the IRGC is manifest in "the military arms it is trying to plant in the region", he told Al-Mashareq.
"Maintaining the security of the Gulf region can only be achieved by maintaining a unified military approach based on a defined strategy centred on confronting threats collectively," al-Shehri said.
This upholds the security of the Gulf "as a red line that cannot be crossed", he said, adding that the joint drills send a message "directed specifically at Iran".
The GCC posture "converges with the US determination to curb the threats posed by the IRGC and thwart its plans, not only in the Gulf region", he said.
Island Shield exercises
The Island Shield exercises are among the largest conducted in the Gulf region to date, Kuwaiti Army infantry officer Lt. Col. Nasser Rashed told Al-Mashareq.
Ground, sea and air forces have participated, as well as strategy teams, border guard forces, air defence units and tactical and security teams, he said.
All the Gulf states are taking part in these exercises, "which underscores the joint defensive strategy to counter common threats or any threats to any one of the countries taking part in the exercises", Rashed said.
The drills are conducted with live ammunition "under highly realistic conditions, simulating actual battle conditions through the use of the latest technology", Rashed said.
The recently concluded drill was conducted in four stages, he said, with the first three covering joint military tactical training exercises.
It concluded with a joint military parade with all the participating teams represented, attended by senior commanders from participating countries.
Unity despite differences
Joint military exercises undertaken by GCC states "underscore permanent military co-ordination between these states, despite political differences, to counter any common threat", said Qatari military expert Riyad al-Ali.
Any threat to any Gulf state is a threat to all the countries of the region, he told Al-Mashareq, and therefore "it is imperative to maintain this co-ordination through a partnership with the US, which plays a key role in this regard".
The participation of the Qatari army in exercises on Saudi soil is "evidence of the unity of the strategic decision, unaffected by the political differences", he said.
Political tension will dissolve over time owing to the strong social, historical and geographic ties between GCC member states, al-Ali added.