Members of US Congress Submit ‘Maritime Act of 2023’ Seeking Abraham Accords’ Expansion to Naval Alliance


Foreign Affairs

Tel Aviv: A bipartisan initiative in the US is aimed at creating a joint naval security formation that will include the US , Israel and all the countries in the Gulf region that have signed the Abraham Accords to confront the rapidly growing Iranian threat in the maritime arena.

According to a report in the Israeli YNET news outlet, a bipartisan group of members of Congress in the United States, who are members of a legislative lobby prepared a legislation whose goal is to expand the “Abraham Accords” to a naval alliance as well, in order to prevent the threat from Iran. The group submitted, a draft known for short as the “Maritime Act of 2023” (“The Maritime Law of 2023”).

The proposal is similar to an air defence alliance that was approved last year and focused on the joint effort to protect against missiles and drones, the YNET website reported.

According to the report, the new legislation, supported by members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike, warns of “threats of manned and unmanned naval systems from Iran and its affiliates, as well as violent extremist organizations, criminal networks and pirates.”

It requires the Ministry of Defence to submit within 60 days from the date of receipt of the bill a strategy for cooperation with the US’ allies in the Middle East, along with a designated budget as well as specific actions to promote Israel’s integration into naval partnerships, the YNET website report mentions.

Israeli defence sources told Raksha Anirveda that the Israeli government is fully coordinating with the members of congress that initiated the act. “They received updated intelligence on the Iranian growing threat in the maritime arena and the affected of the Russian involvement” one of the sources said.

On the same day (April 27) that the bill was presented on Capitol Hill, the commander of the US Army’s Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, who will be responsible for the implementation of the bill, visited Israel and met with Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant and with Chief of Staff, Major General Herzi Halevi.

According to the IDF spokesperson, The purpose of the visit was to strengthen relations with the American forces at sea, in the air and on land. As part of the tour, the American general visited the 13th Fleet base, the Navy’s commando unit, and reviewed the unit’s joint activity with its American counterpart, the “Sea Lions” unit, which includes joint training and exercises.

“We are following the changes in the region, with an emphasis on the increase in Iranian aggression and terrorism,” Chief of Staff Halevi said at the end of the meeting, according to the official release.

In an official statement released by the Israeli ministry of defence, the parties discussed developing regional challenges, with a focus on Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East region. “This includes Iranian aggression in the maritime arena and the delivery of weapons to terror organizations and proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and the wider region.”

According to the official release, minister Gallant and General Kurilla expressed their shared commitment to deepen the unique cooperation and intelligence-sharing between their respective militaries and defence establishments.

“In addition, they stressed the importance of widening military cooperation with regional partners under CENTCOM leadership,” said the release.

Vice Admiral (ret.) Eliezer Marum, former commander of the Israeli navy told Raksha Anirveda that the importance of the proposed agreement will be judged by its implementation.

“To be effective, it must deal with sharing of intelligence and even more important on the willingness of all the parties to act according to this intelligence,” he said.

The initiative in the US congress was first put in focus in March in a paper written for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). This reports deals with the need to create a multinational force that will deal with the growing threat posed by Iran at sea.

“The Department of Defence should explore where Israel has capabilities that could be integrated into the CMF, specifically Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 for Arabian Gulf security and CTF 153 for Red Sea security, as well as the IMSC. Congress should request Defence Department a strategy from the Defence Department that builds out an integrated maritime domain awareness and operations among America’s partners in the Middle East.”

According to this report since Israel is often the target of Iranian attacks at sea and has significant relevant technological capabilities, to better protect the region’s critical waterways, “the United States should explore ways of including Israel in key multinational maritime initiatives, including the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), and develop an integrated maritime domain network among its Middle Eastern partners.”

The Israeli navy recently took part in a number of significant drills with the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet of the United States. The exercises are intended to improve collaboration between the fleets, practice securing commercial channels, combat maritime terrorism, take over ships, and demonstrate power against Iran.

Israeli defence sources say that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Navy operates in the Red Sea through an array of ships, including some that are equipped to gather intelligence.

The US Fifth Fleet is based in Manama, Bahrain and includes naval forces operating in the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean, the Straits of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and Bab al-Mandab. The Red Sea and in particular the Suez Canal are a critical landmark for Israel. This is one of the largest and most important maritime trade routes in the world. No less than 25% of the world’s maritime trade traffic passes through this route, including goods and oil – from the Far East and the Gulf countries to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe.

The Iranians are basing their maritime force on manned and unmanned fast boats that carry explosives. This fleet according to Israeli experts will grow dramatically in the coming months. The Red Sea now sees a much greater presence of Israeli navy’s ships and the number will grow as the Iranian threats to shipping in this waterway also grow. The presence of the Israeli navy in the vicinity of Iran is to deter it from any hostility against Israel. The Iranian effort to create a presence in the Red Sea, Gulf and the Atlantic, is affecting the deployment of the Israeli navy.

Equipped with very advanced SA’AR 6 corvettes and Dolphin 2 submarines, the Israeli navy according to sources is “deploying its vessels according to very exact intelligence”. The foreign press claimed that the Israeli navy has at least one submarine in the Gulf. The reports added that this submarine is capable of launching missiles to hit targets in Iran.

The “SA’AR 6” missile corvettes used by the Israeli navy are almost completely operational. The main operational assimilation procedure for three of the four “SA’AR 6” type missile ships, which were manufactured in Germany, was recently concluded. This process involved the installation of all 20 combat systems, the majority of which were made in Israel.

The Israeli navy has added more advanced systems to enhance the capability of its new SA’AR 6 corvettes to perform more versatile missions in the Mediterranean and in other seas and oceans.