US and Israel to launch major military drill ”Austere Challenge 2012”, involving nearly 5,000 troops aimed at Iran.
October 19, 2012
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 defence 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 on 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 defence 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.”
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 2,000km.
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.
Despite widespread disapproval, we keep moving closer and closer to war with Iran. If you listen to the election rhetoric, it sounds like the United States and Israel will be engaging Iran militarily either way, unfortunately.