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.


Top US general visits airbase in fight for Mosul

No Russian air strikes on Aleppo in 7 days

Thousands of Yemenis await lifting of Coalition blockade

Iran calls for more Asian investment

Egypt rolls out austerity programme

25 travelling on inflatable dinghy found dead in Mediterannean

Turkey says will clear Kurdish fighters from Manbij

Russia cancels warship fuel stop after pressure on Spain to refuse permission

US, UK expect Raqa offensive within weeks

Sudan's Bashir to appoint PM for first time since coup

Israel army says soldier wounded by gunfire on Lebanese border

Students among 22 dead as raids hit Syria school

Israel charges 13 Jews with celebrating murder of Palestinians

Revolutionary Guards commander says Iranian firms should lead oil projects

Egyptian officer accidentally shoots dead Israeli teen

IS members Ďshave beardsí as Iraqi forces approach Mosul

US praises Qatar moves to deny jihadists funds

Clashes between protesters, police in Diyarbakir after Turkey arrests mayors

Saudi financial position strong despite oil prices says minister

Iran develops 'suicide drone'

UN envoy to Yemen presents peace proposal to Huthis

Turkey says US must extradite Gulen to avoid damaging ties

Mosul survivors recount fleeing IS 'caliphate'

Report finds Israeli forces could have avoided killings

NATO flies first surveillance mission backing anti-IS coalition

Russian FM says Mosul offensive equivalent to Moscow's Aleppo bombing

Saudi Arabia denies it imposed Yemen blockade

Syria Kurds say Turkey wants to prevent Raqa recapture

Anger at Israel national theatre show in occupied West Bank

UN receives reports of dozens of IS atrocities near Mosul

Hundreds protest against UN 'complicity' in rebel-held Yemen capital

Turkey FM says ground operation in Iraq a possibility

Iraqi forces retake town from IS

Iran nuclear negotiator cleared of spying charges

Al-Shabaab in suicide bomb attack on AU base in Somalia

Gunmen kill two policemen in eastern Saudi Arabia

Iraqi paramilitary to block IS from fleeing Mosul for Syria

Two imams arrested in Ibiza over 'Islamic State support'

US general raises Yemen concerns with Saudi officials

Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul face stiff resistance

At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey explosion

French FM annoys Turkey by contrasting states of emergency

UN planning for 150,000 displaced by Mosul battle

UAE jails Sudanese man for planning attacks on immigrants

Qatar in 3 days of mourning for former emir