Postponing Joint US/Israeli Exercises - by Stephen Lendman
Exercises when held target Iran.
Last November, Haaretz said Washington and Israel planned holding their "largest" and "most significant" ever joint military exercise, involving over 5,000 US and Israeli troops. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro for Political-Military Affairs confirmed it.
On January 5, AP headlined "Israeli and US troops gear up for major missile defense drill after Iran maneuvers," saying:
As tensions with Iran escalate, "Austere Challenge 12" is "designed to improve defense systems and cooperation between the US and Israeli forces." It follows Iranian naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz.
Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said they displayed "Iran's military prowess and defense capabilities in the international waters, convey(ed) a message of peace and friendship to regional countries, and test(ed) the newest military equipment among other objectives."
On January 10, Press TV said Ground Forces commander General Ahmad Reza Poursastan announced plans to use Iran's most advanced military equipment in more planned drills.
Scheduled sometime after mid-February, weapons and ground tactics will be evaluated. Objectives include bolstering security along Iran's eastern border, assessing defense and combat capabilities, and giving young officers more experience.
Originally scheduled for April, joint US/Israeli exercises are postponed. According to an Israeli defense official, Washington wants regional tensions cooled. Media reports suggest Israel plans strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Washington may object over timing and tactics. Likely also is concern over Israel acting preemptively unannounced. Last fall, Joint Chiefs head General Martin Dempsey expressed alarm, telling Obama it's possible. This week, he's heading to Israel to meet with Israeli officials.
He'll first stop in Brussels to meet with IDF chief General Benny Gantz and other NATO officials. In a CNN interview, he said his biggest concern is that Iran will "miscalculate our resolve." He spoke one day after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Iran not to produce nuclear weapons.
No evidence suggests a nuclear weapons capability or intention to develop one. Panetta, other Obama officials and Israeli ones know but won't say. Playing the nuclear card is pretext perhaps for a planned attack.
The drill planned testing defenses against Iranian or other incoming missiles. According to Israel's Channel 2, drills are now scheduled for late summer. The Jerusalem Post said end of year. When held, they'll be the largest ever joint ones, involving thousands of forces.
US troops are already positioned in Israel's Negev, monitoring Iranian missile tests. America's European Command (EUCOM) also closely follows Israeli war preparations by satellite and other means.
According to Israel's Defense Ministry, the announced postponement came Friday. Discussions on both sides continue. Some reports suggested cancellation was for budgetary reasons. Israel put that notion to rest. Neither country skimps on military matters.
A late 2009 joint missile defense exercise involved about 1,000 personnel on both sides. This one when held will be five times larger.