First Published: 2012-10-18

 

Knocking at Iran’s 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.

 

Syrian migrant blows self up near German music festival

Arab summit in Mauritania cut to single day

12 killed in suicide bomb attack north of Baghdad

Turkey cracks down on journalists after coup

Iran destroys 100,000 ‘morally damaging’ satellite dishes

ISIS claims second German attack in a week

France calls for immediate humanitarian truce in Aleppo

Dozens dead in 5 days of Yemen fighting

Israel advances plans for 770 settlement homes

Libya conflict keeps 279,000 children out of school

After week of attacks, Germany warns of backlash against refugees

Iraqi charged with having 'trace' explosives in Poland

UN Syria envoy, US, Russian officials to hold talks Tuesday

Kuwait top court acquits IOC powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad

Air strikes, rebel fire kill 19 in Aleppo

Egypt policeman killed in Sinai attack claimed by IS

ISIS suicide bomber kills at least 15 in northern Baghdad

Turkey readies first cross-party rally to condemn coup

Libya loyalists seize ISIS bomb factory in Sirte

Tunisia dissident, Mohsen Marzouk, opens new party congress

Air raids jeopardise much-needed medical care in Aleppo

Saudi delegation in Israel to promote stalled peace initiative

At least 61 people dead as ISIS claims twin blasts in Kabul

Iraq PM seeks to speed up death penalty implementation

Munich shooting had 'obvious link' to Breivik, not ISIS

EgyptAir flight broke up in midair after fire, evidence suggests

Palestinian village could soon cease to exist

Coalition warplanes strike Qaeda positions in southern Yemen

Turkey extends police powers, shutters over 1,000 private schools

Libya ‘NATO revolutionaries’ urge fight against French troops

Germany probes motives of 'lone' Munich mass killer

Russian warplanes targeted US, British outpost in Syria

Bodies of 14 'executed' people found in Libya's Benghazi

UN to help Turkey bolster tourism sector

France to supply weapons to Iraqi army

Turkey tensions fester in Germany

Israel official on first visit to Chad in 40 years

EU condemns 'unacceptable' Turkey purges

Iran stops 'terrorist infiltration' from Turkey

Moscow restarts air travel to Turkey

Assad says Erdogan is 'implementing his own extremist agenda'

Egypt's Sisi says 'serious efforts' made in Palestine peace process

43 civilians dead as regime bombards rebel-held areas in Syria

UN pleads for weekly 48-hour truce in Syria's Aleppo

Kuwait upholds death for Iran spy cell 'mastermind'