Through its presence in regional waterways in support of partner nations, the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) has made clear its commitment to security and to safe maritime trade and transportation, political analysts said.
NAVCENT provides broad maritime security support to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) -- a 33-nation force working to combat terrorism, prevent piracy, encourage regional co-operation and promote a safe maritime environment.
It also provides direct support to Gulf and regional navies, Bahraini political analyst Abdullah al-Junaid told Al-Mashareq.
Regional and international naval forces "share the common responsibility of ensuring the smooth flow of regional shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Sea, Bab al-Mandeb strait and other important waterways", he said.
The US Navy's 5th Fleet, stationed in Bahrain, is supported by British and French naval forces in its efforts to safeguard "the security and stability of territorial waters against any terrorist or military threat", al-Junaid said.
'Barrier against Iranian threats'
Joint naval co-operation "has repelled many threats" to maritime navigation in the region, al-Junaid said.
These threats include the use of remote-controlled booby-trapped boats by Iran and the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) and the launching of missiles targeting civilian vessels, he said, as well as sea mines planted by Iran.
These mines were planted "in flagrant violation" of international maritime navigation laws, he said, and harm the region’s political and economic interests.
Developing threat detection and containment capabilities can only be achieved through the exchange of expertise and through the conduct of intensive joint training exercises in regional waters, al-Junaid said.
The US Navy's presence in the region and its efforts to secure maritime navigation have become "a fundamental necessity recognised by all countries in the region", Saudi political analyst Abdulrahman al-Mulhim told Al-Mashareq.
This has served as a "barrier against repeated Iranian threats and prevented commercial and economic interests from coming to any harm", he said, noting that Iran continues to pose a threat to maritime navigation boundaries.
"The strong strategic relations between Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries and the US have opened the door to increasing the exchange of information and expertise in support of maritime security," al-Mulhim said.
This will help to improve security in these vital shipping corridors, he added.
Support for regional security
Nearly 80% of international trade passes through these strategic waterways, Bahraini journalist Tamam Abu Safi told Al-Mashareq, noting that "60% of the world's oil comes from the Gulf region".
The US has provided various forms of defence and security support to protect these waterways and facilitate the free flow of commerce, signing military agreements and establishing military bases in Bahrain and Kuwait, she said.
This commitment to maritime security also involves "providing logistical support, training military personnel in the region, and conducting joint military exercises", she said.
These exercises serve to send "clear messages to any potential future enemy and to increase the effectiveness of naval forces in the region", Abu Safi said, noting that regional waters cover a vast geographic area.
"Without the presence of US forces, the countries of the region would not have been able to control illegal activities here, which include terrorist activities, weapon and drug smuggling, piracy, and human trafficking," she said.
In addition to their military presence, US naval forces have played a humanitarian role in regional waters by intervening to rescue fishing vessels and other vessels in distress.
"The humanitarian role being performed by joint naval forces does not exclude even Iranian ships," researcher and political analyst Adnan al-Humairi had told Al-Mashareq.
On February 5th, an Iranian fishing vessel in the Central Arabian Gulf hailed a US Navy warship, requesting medical assistance. The US ship responded and two men onboard the Iranian vessel were evaluated and received treatment.