• U.S. Navy's Middle-East-based 5th Fleet launched a new drone task force
  • Initiatives signal normalization of relations between Gulf nations, Israel against Iran
  • Iranian navy had released two U.S. Navy surface drones after seizing them for hours

Iran's top military commander warned "enemies" against the deployment of unmanned reconnaissance drones in the Persian Gulf, signaling that the country's response would be "decisive."

He went on to criticize Israel for joining the U.S. CENTCOM, terming the country's presence in the region "illegitimate."

"Enemies are trying to compensate for the reduction of force in West Asia by creating new units," Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said Monday.

The remarks came in view of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet's new drone task force deployed in the Middle East.

"The armed forces' response to vessels wandering in open waters will be decisive," the Iranian army chief said, maintaining that the drones "endanger maritime security."

He further called Israel's cooperation with the U.S. Central Command a "threat" to Iran.

"The presence of Israel in the region is illegitimate. It not only does nothing to help the regional security but also foments insecurity," he said. "We do not tolerate the presence of the Zionist regime."

"We will not make any compromises regarding the rights of the Iranian nation and the security of our seas and lands," he added.

The development has come in response to a series of encounters between Iran and the U.S. in the Red Sea. The Iranian navy released American surface drones hours after seizing them Thursday. Earlier on Tuesday, Iran accused the U.S. of blocking international waters and endangering maritime safety.

This was the first time when the U.S. Navy's Middle East-based 5th Fleet's new drone task force was targeted by Iran. The vessel was released only when a U.S. Navy warship and helicopter approached.

Earlier this year, the U.S. launched a joint fleet of unmanned drones in the Middle East with allied nations. U.S. Navy is currently working with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations to build a network of unmanned drones as it seeks to constrain Iran in the region. The drone initiative also signals the further normalization of relations between Gulf nations and Israel, which has been a strategic headache for Iran.

In an apparent show of force aimed at Iran, the U.S. military on Sunday flew a pair of nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortresses long-distance bombers. It was a fourth such mission undertaken in the Middle East this year.

The tension between the U.S. and Iran has been high since 2018 when former president Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal, which would have ensured the lifting of sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its uranium enrichment.

Efforts to revive the deal since remain stalled with both countries hardening their stance.

Although Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, experts warn Tehran has enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb.

The U.S. military had also recently launched retaliatory strikes on Iran-backed forces in Syria.

A US Navy Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) or naval drone in the Arabian Gulf off Bahrain’s coast.