Today the Associated Press reported that the British Royal Navy will open its first naval installation on the Arabian Peninsula since 1971 by returning to Bahrain. Commodore Steve Dainton, U.K. Maritime Component Commander, told the AP “The aim of the Royal Navy being out here anyway is to enhance and ensure the maritime security in the region, and whether or not that’s law and order on the high seas, countering piracy, countering terrorism, making sure that the high seas are all safe for the free-flow of commerce, the free flow of trade to be able to take place.”
Bahrain is a vital part of U.S. presence in the region as its 5th fleet is stationed in Bahrain and is at a constant standoff with the Iranian Navy who sits right across the Strait of Hormuz. Though the number of incidents on the high seas between the U.S. and the Iranian navy has fallen off since President Trump has taken office the tension is still very high.
The plan for the new naval facility was first announced in late 2014 but its completion couldn’t be more timely. As Russia, Iran, and Turkey start to plan for parts of the region to reflect and protect their interests, the core of NATO – The U.S., British, and France – are quietly responding. France has offered to help the U.S. by sending troops to northern Syria, which infuriated the Turks, while France is asking for American help in West Africa. While the British rarely disagree with the U.S. on foreign policy they can’t really complain when it comes to Iran. Britain, after all, was the reason Mossadegh, Iran’s first elected leader, was removed in 1953 and the Shah, leader by birthright, was put in his place. This is the primary source of grievance that fueled the Iranian revolution – a revolution that is still hostile to the United States 39 years later.
With tensions rising in Eastern Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and even Bahrain the Iranians look to expand in the region and the British Navy is a sight for sore the eyes for those tasked with containing Iran.