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  US-UK, France, & Bahrain exercise intercepting Gulf ships with WMD (new USS Liberty/Tonkin?)
Bahrain to take part in naval exercise

Gulf Daily News | October 15, 2006

BAHRAIN will take part in an international naval exercise in the Gulf this month to practice intercepting ships carrying weapons of mass destruction and missiles, according to reports.

The Bahrain Royal Navy is expected to join maritime forces from the US, UK and France as an international crisis looms over nuclear disputes with Iran and North Korea.

A Reuters report from Washington said the exercise was taking place as the US and other major powers consider sanctions including the possible interdiction of North Korean ships following a reported nuclear test.

It also said Iran could face sanctions after defying a UN Security Council mandate to stop enriching uranium.

The exercise is reportedly set for October 31 and is the 25th to be organised under the US-led 66-member Proliferation Security Initiative. However, this is said to be the first time it will take place in the Gulf near Bahrain - just across the water from Iran.

The Reuters report quoted a senior US official who insisted the exercise was not aimed specifically at Iran, but reinforced a US strategy to strengthen America's ties with the GCC - where it says Tehran and Washington are competing for influence.

"It's an effort to bring a lot of Gulf states together to demonstrate resolve and readiness to act against proliferation," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

The Proliferation Security Initiative, established in 2003 under President George W Bush, is a voluntary association of countries that agree to share intelligence information and work against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including through military exercises that practice interdiction techniques and co-ordination.

Kuwait is also expected to be among the participating countries in the forthcoming exercise. Other Gulf states are reportedly still deciding whether to join the sea-based exercise, which will be preceded by "table-top" exercises at the US regional naval headquarters in Bahrain.

South Korea, which the US is trying to persuade to become a full-fledged member of the PSI, is expected to be an observer at the Gulf exercise, officials said.

North Korea has declared it has nuclear weapons capability, while Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed at producing energy.

However, the US and other major powers have accused Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.



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