First Published: 2012-10-18

 

Knocking at Iranís door: US Israeli forces to stage drill

 

US, Israel will stage three-week air defense drills later this month in show of unity aimed at Iran.

 

Middle East Online

By Mathieu Rabechault - WASHINGTON

Sending a strong signal to Iran

The United States and Israel are set to launch a major military exercise in a show of unity aimed at Iran, despite friction between American and Israeli leaders over how to counter Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The air defense drills, dubbed "Austere Challenge 2012," will unfold later this month and last about three weeks, with 3,500 US troops and 1,000 Israeli forces taking part, officers said Wednesday.

"This is the largest exercise in the history of the longstanding military relationship between the US and Israel," said Lieutenant General Craig Franklin, 3rd Air Force Commander, who is overseeing the drill along with his Israeli counterpart, Brigadier General Nitzan Nuriel.

"This exercise will improve the cooperative missile defense of Israel and will promote regional stability and help ensure a military edge," Franklin told reporters in a teleconference.

But the drill is about more than missile defenses.

The elaborate exercise takes place at a politically-charged moment, amid speculation about a possible Israeli pre-emptive attack on Iran, a hotly-contested US presidential election weeks away and parliamentary polls expected in Israel within a few months.

The drill's "scenario is to deal with threats from all fronts," Nuriel, the Israeli commander, told the same phone conference.

"Anybody can get any type of message he wants from this exercise. The fact we are practicing together and working together is a strong message by itself."

Although Israel faces rocket attacks out of Gaza and missile threats from Syria and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, the main worry for the Jewish state is Iran's growing arsenal of ballistic missiles.

In a report this year to Congress, the Pentagon warned that Iran's missiles could hit Israel and Eastern European countries, including an extended-range version of the Shahab-3 and a medium-range ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers.

The missile threat, combined with the crisis over Iran's disputed nuclear program, prompted Israeli authorities in August to test a SMS public alert system designed to warn the population of an imminent attack.

In the works for two years, the joint exercise originally was scheduled for April but was postponed at Israel's request, without an official explanation.

The drill highlights US-Israeli cooperation just as President Barack Obama seeks to deflect criticism from his Republican rival Mitt Romney, who has accused him of neglecting America's ally and rebuffing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama and Netanyahu disagree over the urgency of the perceived threat posed by Iran, with the US president favoring more time for diplomacy and international sanctions to rein in Tehran's uranium enrichment work.

Netanyahu has publicly aired his differences with the Obama administration over the Iran issue, scolding Washington for failing to set its own "red lines" that would trigger military action against Tehran.

The West believes Iran is secretly pursuing plans to develop a nuclear weapons capability, but Tehran insists its program is designed purely for peaceful purposes to generate electricity.

 

Syria army agrees to respect truce in Syriaís Aleppo

Davutoglu to step down after failing to escape Erdogan's shadow

Israel strikes Hamas sites in Gaza

UN urged to take action over rebel fire on besieged Yemen city

Will London elect its first Muslim mayor?

Yemen foes discuss key issues in Kuwait talks

Egypt's Sisi touts economic accomplishments

US aid ship docks with food for Sudan war zones

Israel court recommends returning Palestinian attackers' corpses

Saudi allows Binladin Group tenders after mass layoffs

Long Erdogan-Davutoglu honeymoon coming to an end

Tunisia confident border trade with Libya will resume 'very soon'

Malta likely to become first EU member to open Libya mission

Qaeda threatens to target homes of Yemen security forces

Anti-ISIS coalition pledges additional military commitment

UN warns Eastern Aleppo may soon become besieged

London set to elect its first Muslim Mayor

Fierce fighting rages in Aleppo as diplomacy efforts intensify

Riyadh's $22.5 bn Metro project on track

Egypt court sentences prominent activist to six months in prison

UK to take in more Syria child refugees

France to host Saudi, Qatar, UAE, Turkey FMs for Syria talks

US expects more military resources for anti-ISIS fight

Standoff escalates between Egypt journalists and authorities

Turkey says ready to send ground troops to Syria 'if necessary'

Hamas accuses Fatah of organising military cell in Gaza

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's last PM

Israel to upgrade ties with NATO as Turkey lifts veto

Passengers injured as Etihad flight hits severe turbulence

Israeli tanks fire shots over Gaza border

5th edition of Middle East Homeland Security Summit to be held in Amman in November

Money and revenge push Syrians to jihadist ranks

EU conditionally backs visa-free travel for Turks, overhauls asylum system

Airstrikes resume in Damascus as fighting 'freeze' ends

Relief in Yemen's Mukalla after year of al-Qaeda rule

Saudi oil minister visits Sudan to cement improving ties

Warnings for Assad as Syria talks shift to Berlin

Is Erdogan-Davutoglu tandem coming to an end?

US troops facing growing risks in Iraq, Syria

Fierce clashes rage in Syriaís Aleppo

Yemen warring parties back to peace talks table

OPCW warns ISIS may be making chemical weapons

French court says 'Carlos the Jackal' must face trial for 1974 attack

UN demands protection of hospitals in armed conflicts

Jewish settler who led burning alive of Palestinian teen receives life sentence