On 13 September 2023, the US State Secretary Anthony Blinken and the Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa signed a Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement (C-SIPA). The new agreement would strengthen strategic partnership between the two countries. Under this framework, the United States and Bahrain will cooperate not only in the defence and security fields, but also in science, technology and trade. According to Secretary Blinken, the cornerstone of the agreement is the shared goal to contribute to building a more secure and prosperous region that is also closely connected to the world economy.
The agreement makes a particular emphasis on deterrence and coordination in order to tackle regional challenges through increasing interoperability and mutual intelligence capacity-building. Even though the official statement does not mention Iran, it is easy to read between the lines. Tehran remains the main regional threat, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia having been directly targeted by Iranian attacks in the recent past. However, while the agreement highlights the US’s long-term commitment and interest towards ensuring regional security, it does not involve any expanded defence commitment or security guarantees.
Bahrain has already been the US’s closest partner in the Middle East and currently hosts the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. In 2002, Bahrain became the first Gulf country to receive a Major NON-NATO Ally and its forces have been part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Additionally, Washington has been supplying Manama with advanced military weapons. Hence, the defence and security cooperation between the two partners have been built on solid grounds and dates back to 1948.