ABU DHABI // Starting on Sunday, the United States Navy will team up with more than 30 other nations in the largest anti-mine exercise ever carried out in the region.
Touted as an effort to work cooperatively with the international community, the naval exercises will target the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Oman.
The exercise is "not being conducted in response to any specific threat", said Lt Greg Raelson, a spokesman for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.
"Mines and water-borne improvised explosive devices are a threat to life, and they are a threat to the freedom of navigation," Lt Raelson said. "The international community is unified on this issue."
Some experts said the move was obviously a message to Iran, which has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 20 per cent of the world's oil passes.
"Anytime there is an exercise by the West or Iran, it is always about posturing or the control of the Strait of Hormuz," said Dr Theodore Karasik, the director of research and consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
"What is really interesting will be how seriously the Iranians take this as a threat to their national security."
The United Kingdom, France, Japan and more than two dozen other nations are expected to participate in the mine countermeasure exercises. The UAE is not one of the confirmed participants.
The exercises will continue until September 27.