January 17, 2021
Israeli and American troops participate in Juniper Cobra, a U.S.-Israeli joint air defence exercise, in Zeelim, southern Israel, March 12, 2018. (Reuters)
US President Donald Trump has ordered the US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees the mission of the US military in the Middle East, to include Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, citing US officials.
US military responsibility for Israel had long been allocated to its European command, an arrangement that enabled US generals in the region to interact with Arab states without having a close association with Jewish state, which until recently was seen as an adversary by many Arab leaders.
The growing momentum of the Abraham Accords, which include CENTCOM members the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has changed this perception. According to the report, Trump's decree means that the US Central Command would oversee American military policy involving both Israel and Arab nations.
"The easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East," the Pentagon said in a statement Friday.
"Israel is a leading strategic partner for the United States, and this will open up additional opportunities for cooperation with our US Central Command partners while maintaining strong cooperation between Israel and our European allies," the statement read.
The latest defense policy move seems to be another attempt to spur Israeli-Arab cooperation against Iran.
Michael Makovsky, head of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, siad, that the move "will strengthen strategic planning, defense cooperation and deterrence against Iran by America and its regional allies.
"I hope it might also smooth the way for the Pentagon to utilize Israel more for regional operations, including by prepositioning precision-guided munitions [PGMs] and other much-needed weaponry for American, Israeli, and possibly, partner Arab forces. PGMs are critical to Israel's continued ability to defend US interests by rolling back the military footprint of Iran and its proxies," he told JNS.
According to Mick Mulroy, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, the move to include Israel in CENTCOM's region was not a last-minute idea.
Mulroy told al-Monitor that the idea "had been increasingly discussed" in the Pentagon in recent years.
"There have been discussions on this for some time. — Israel's biggest threat comes from within the Middle East: Iran. CENTCOM has a better understanding of what that threat entails," Mulroy said.