US and UAE ignore coronavirus threat with war games
Thousands of American and Emirati soldiers took part in military exercises in the UAE on Monday, which appeared to ignore a global pandemic that has swept the world, costing thousands of lives.
Named "Native Fury", the exercises were held by the UAE and US militaries at Al-Hamra base in Abu Dhabi's desert region, involving thousands of American marines along with other navy and army units, according to AP.
The operation saw 4,000 troops - backed by armoured vehicles and choppers - "capture" a model city, which contained mock multi-story buildings, mosques and even fried chicken shops.
The drills come amid tensions with Iran, following the assassination of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in January in a US drone strike.
Native Fury was believed to be a powerful message to Tehran which is embroiled in a major health crisis following the mass outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
Tehran has made appeals to Washington to ease a punishing embargo on the country. It has also asked countries to ignore the sanctions, amid a worsening health crisis in Iran that has seen thousands die from COVID-19.
The US said that the operation was not aimed at intimidating Tehran, despite the games taking place just 300km from Iran's shores.
"Provocative? I don't know," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Savage of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the ranking US commander at the event, according to AP.
"We're about stability in the region. So if they view it as provocative, well, that's up to them. This is just a normal training exercise for us."
As Iran struggles to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, the UAE has also introduced tough measures to deal with the crisis including closing stores and grounding flights.
The UAE has seen 198 cases of the disease and two deaths, but generals and diplomats denied that the war games posed any risk to the public and soldiers at UAE bases are being monitored for COVID-90.
The US now has the third highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. More than 34,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease which has cost 459 lives.