A series of apparently unconnected military movements observed in Middle East seas and skies in the last tendays have a common factor: introduction of the new US Air Sea Battle (ASB) doctrine, which is designed to make the most of tightly coordinated operations by air, land, sea, undersea, space and cyberspace capabilities for defeating those of the enemy.
Monday, May 14, the day that Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal warned Iran not to meddle in the evolving Saudi-Bahraini union, large US Navy and Marine forces put into Jeddah port for first time in 11 years.
Last week, Israel’s Navy and Air Force and their special operations units – Shaldag, Shayetet 13 and the 916 Detachment – carried out their largest combined exercise ever in the Mediterranean. It ended with Israeli surface ships and submarines arrayed in a dense defensive line against enemy vessels armed with unconventional weapons approaching the Israeli coast.
The Israeli exercise, which ended May 13, practiced the new American ABS doctrine of simultaneously massing large-scale sea and air strength against Iran on two seas, in this case, the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. It also drilled operating in unison with their American counterparts under the same doctrine.
debkafile’s military sources report that Washington timed the unveiling of the new battle strategy for May 10, two weeks before the Six Power nuclear talks with Iran resume in Baghdad.
US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert explained that the ASB concept was developed "to defeat A2AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) strategies such as the closure of the (Hormuz) strait, cyber attack, mines, cruise and ballistic missiles and air defense systems, threats enhanced by technological advancements.”
Our military sources add: The concept is also closely applicable to American tactics for defending the Persian Gulf nations against possible Iranian aggression as the GCC takes its first unification steps to shore up its defenses against that threat.
Adm. Greenert wrote: “There’s been attention recently about closing an international strait using, among other means, mines, fast boats, cruise missiles and mini-subs.”
debkafile: Those are precisely the systems Iran’s Revolutionary Guards hold ready for a decision to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz to international oil traffic.
ABS concepts include “submarines hitting air defense and cruise missiles in support of Air Force bombers: F-22 Air Force stealth fighters taking out enemy cruise missile threats to Navy ships.”
Adm. Greenert was the first senior American commander to put on public record the measures for repelling Iranian cruise missile attacks on US aircraft carriers deployed in the Persian Gulf. He also spelled out the mission for which a squadron of F-22 jets was stationed at the Al Dhafra air base in late April.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly 539 revealed on May 4 that a second squadron was due to land soon in the Gulf region.
On May 16, Adm. Greenert and US Air Force chief Gen. Norton Schwartz are to discuss the ABS in a public event at the Brookings Institute in Washington.
US and Israeli air, sea and special forces have meanwhile begun operating under the new doctrine in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Monday, the US Amphibious Ready Group, 24th MEU, led by the USS Iwo Jima put into Jeddah, the Saudi Navy’s Red Sea command port, with 2,200 Marines aboard.
It was the first time since the 1991 Gulf War that the Saudis had permitted US naval and air units of this size to anchor in one of their ports and, moreover, allowed American military personnel to show themselves in its streets.
The GCC summit which began in Riyadh on the same day had three key items on its agenda: Iran’s military, political and covert threat to the region’s stability; the Syrian crisis; and unification steps between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to ward off Iranian interference in the Shiite-led unrest.