US calls Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The United States called Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates “major security partners” early on Saturday, a hitherto unheard-of designation for the two countries hosting major US military operations .

A White House statement linked the designation to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, normalizing their ties with Israel, saying it “reflects their extraordinary courage, determination and leadership.” He also noted that the two countries have long participated in US military exercises.

It’s unclear what the designation means for Bahrain, an island kingdom off Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, and the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhs home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, while the UAE’s Jebel Ali Port is the busiest port of call for U.S. warships outside of the U.S. Bahrain is home to some 5,000 U.S. troops, while the United Arab Emirates hosts 3,500, many of them at Al-Dhafra Air Base.

Already, the United States uses the designation “major non-NATO ally” to describe its relationship with Kuwait, which hosts the forward command of the US Army Central. This designation grants a country special financial and military considerations for non-NATO countries.

U.S. Army Central Command and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The 5th Fleet referred the queries to the State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House appointment comes in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump forged close ties with Arab Gulf countries during his tenure, in part because of his tough stance on Iran. This sparked a growing series of incidents between countries following Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

It also comes after Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates joined with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to begin resolving a multi-year boycott of Qatar, another Gulf Arab nation home to the Al- air base. Udeid which houses the central command forward operating base. This boycott began in the early days of Trump’s tenure following his visit to Saudi Arabia on his first trip abroad.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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