France, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia secretly launch their first joint war game
debkafile‘s military sources report exclusively that the first Persian Gulf exercise without the US in many years began Feb. 24. It will last ten days. It is also the first time the United Arab Emirates and France have invoked their 19-year old military pact. France has contributed 1,500 navy marine and air force personnel to the exercise; the UAE, 1,500 and Qatar 3,000 troops. Our military sources report that a number of the advanced French Rafale B and naval units are deployed in the exercise.
While Iran is not explicitly targeted, the objectives of the maneuver are to practice repulsing marine landings by sea on the Gulf participants’ shores and missile attacks from the east, i.e. Iran. The joint force is also drilling tactics to defend their oil and gas fields and oil ports.
While the Saudi army is not directly participating in the maneuver, King Abdullah has permitted some of the air and naval movements to take place in the kingdom’s territorial waters and over its air space.
Some of the participating French units will stay on as the vanguard of the 400-strong contingent to permanently man the new French base under construction in Abu Dhabi opposite the Strait of Hormuz.
It will be France’s first military foothold in the Persian Gulf region. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the UAE government agreed to establish this base with the approval of US president George W. Bush during their respective Gulf tours last month.