Military forces from Israel, the United States and Turkey recently conducted five days of humanitarian/search-and-rescue exercises in the seas off southern Turkey.
Code-named Reliant Mermaid IV, ships and aircraft of the three allied states rehearsed various scenarios for responding to maritime emergencies. Ironically, the importance of this training was underscored as American and Israeli vessels simultaneously responded to a genuine near-disaster at sea, evacuating 84 oil rig personnel from a platform that had broken free in a storm and gone adrift 30 miles off Israels coast.
The joint maneuvers involved two phases: four days of joint search-and-rescue (SAR) practice in the Mediterranean and a final day of port drills in Turkey oriented toward humanitarian aid missions. The three countries all contributed aircraft and ships to the exercises.
First held in January 1998, the Reliant Mermaid exercises are one of the most visible symbols of the developing strategic partnership between Jerusalem and Ankara, an alliance that has emerged with the full support of Washington. In the past, Arab states in the region have denounced the exercises, which do not involve combat drills. Such comments were more muted during this round, as the event has become more routine. The Israeli and Turkish air forces also conducted joint aerial maneuvers in Turkey last summer.Near East Report