On January 15th, Israeli and American officials mysteriously postponed plans for a massive missile drill, but now the exercise, originally slated for this spring, will apparently be scheduled for October 2012.
DEBKAfile, the Jerusalem-based English language Israeli military intelligence website said of the earlier postponement:
US-Israeli discord over action against Iran went into overdrive Sunday, Jan. 15 when the White House called off Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint war game the US and Israel have ever staged, ready to go in spring, in reprisal for a comment by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in an early morning radio interview. He said the United States was hesitant over sanctions against Iran's central bank and oil for fear of a spike in oil prices.
The row between Washington and Jerusalem is now in the open, undoubtedly causing celebration in Tehran.
Now, Austere Challenge 12 is reportedly back on the books and U.S. military officers begin arriving in Israel next week to prepare.
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Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper broke the story Friday in an article in Hebrew. The Israeli media network Arutz Sheva reports:
Postponed Israel-U.S. Drill to be Held in October
The largest-ever anti-missile military exercise with the United States, which Israel postponed a week and a half ago, will be held in October, the Ma’ariv newspaper reported.
The report said that the decision to hold the exercise in October was reached late on Thursday night, after lengthy discussions between defense officials. [...]
Ma’ariv also noted that in preparation for the drill, U.S. military officers will arrive in Israel next week. About 3,000 U.S. soldiers are expected to arrive in Israel to take part in the large-scale exercise, the report said, and they will be joined by about 2,000 IDF soldiers.
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And Russia Today (RT) reports:
US and Israel Revive Largest Joint Anti-Missile Drills
[...] Now after a brief delay, America will send thousands of troops and its anti-missile defense systems to Israel, albeit a few months later than planned. With the exercise back in the books, it could mean that an eventual war between the US and Iran is still in the works — and now the world has a timeline to see it through.
Speaking off the record, both US and Israeli authorities tell the JTA news wire that tensions with Iran indeed played a role in the rescheduling, but declined to say how exactly. Captain John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US Department of Defense, tells the outlet that the plans were put on hold for routine reasons of wanting “optimum participation” by both the US and Israel.
“We remain dedicated to this exercise and naturally want it to be as robust and as productive as it can be,” adds the captain.
Parts of the program involve a troop surge in the thousands as well as the deployment of America’s Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system and the ship-based Aegis system overseas. Israel’s own Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome missile systems will work in cooperation with their US counterparts. The US troops, estimated to be at a tally of 3,000, could arrive in Israel as early as next week. They will join forces with around 2,000 Israeli’s involved in the country’s own missile program.
Earlier this month, the US deployed 15,000 troops to the nearby nation of Kuwait. Israel has also in recent weeks increased its defense budget to the tune of $700 million.
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