ISRAEL, US CANCEL MISSILE DEFENSE DRILL
By Yaakov Katz
** “Austere Challenge” was billed as largest such drill in country's history; officials cite technical, logistical issues. **
January 15, 2012
Israel and the U.S. canceled a missile defense drill, billed as the largest ever in the country's history, planned for the spring, senior military officials said Sunday.
Initially scheduled for April and called "Austere Challenge," the drill was supposed to see the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops and various sophisticated U.S. military equipment in Israel.
In recent weeks, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office has held talks with the Pentagon about the possibility of canceling the drill.
Senior military officers told The *Jerusalem Post* that the drill scheduled for April has been canceled, while defense officials said that it was possible that it would be held later in 2012.
The drill, expected to involve the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops in Israel, was scheduled to last around a week and mark the first time that a top U.S. military commander would participate in the simulations.
The parties were scheduled to simulate missile defense scenarios with the objective of creating a high level of interoperability so that, if needed, U.S. missile defense systems would be able to work with Israeli systems during a conflict.
Officials refused to elaborate on the reasons behind talks to postpone or cancel the drill, but said they were mostly "technical and logistical."
Talks about postponing the drill took the Americans, as well as the Israeli Air Defense division, responsible for missile defense, by surprise. Just last Thursday, top IAF officers had said that the drill was scheduled for this spring.
This year’s drill was expected to be unique in its size and scope and also mark the first time that commander of the U.S. European Command, Adm. James Stavridis, would participate in the simulations. In the event of war, the EUCOM commander will be responsible for approving Israeli requests to deploy U.S. missile defense systems in Israel.
The planned drill had caused tension in the region amid concern that Israel is planning an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities in the near future, and therefore is bolstering its defenses together with the U.S.
It is possible that talks about postponing the drill can also be contributed [sic -- 'attributed' appears to be meant. -D.Q.] to increased American concern that an Israeli strike is being planned.
Later this week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz will fly to Brussels for a meeting of NATO military commanders and will return to Israel on Thursday to greet Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will be arriving in Tel Aviv for his first official visit.
U.S. EUCOM: MISSILE DEFENSE DRILL WILL TAKE PLACE LATER THIS YEAR
By Yaakov Katz
January 15, 2012
The U.S. military European Command said Sunday that the missile defense drill scheduled for April and canceled over the weekend would be held in late 2012.
“We are going to be conducting the exercise in the second half of 2012,” explained Capt. John Ross, spokesman for the US European Command (EUCOM). “It is not unusual for such exercises to be postponed and leaders of both sides believe that the best participation of all units will be best achieved later in the year.”
Initially scheduled for April and called "Austere Challenge," the drill was supposed to see the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops and various sophisticated US missile defense systems in Israel.
ISRAEL, U.S. POSTPONE MISSILE DEFENSE DRILL
January 15, 2012
TEL AVIV -- Israel and Washington have postponed a massive joint defense exercise, which had been expected in the coming weeks, Israel Radio reported Sunday.
The reason was its high cost, the report said. An Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman was not immediately able for comment.
The drill, codenamed Austere Challenge 12, would simulate missiles fired by Iran or other antagonistic states landing in Israel.
Israeli media said it would be the largest ever joint U.S.-Israeli exercise, involving thousands of U.S. soldiers.
News of it came amid heightened tensions between U.S. allies and Iran, after Tehran threatened it could close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial oil supply route.
But the Israeli military said the drill was “part of a routine training cycle” and had been planned before the latest tensions.
The drill “is not in response to any real-world event,” the army wrote in a statement last week.
In late 2009, Israel and the United States also held a huge joint missile defense exercise, involving about 1,000 U.S. troops, alongside an equal number of Israeli military personnel.
U.S. PRESSURE? ISRAEL POSTPONES MASSIVE JOINT DRILL
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
** Israel delays the largest-ever anti-missile military drill with the US for “technical” reasons days after Obama pressures Israel over Iran. **
January 15, 2012
Israel announced Sunday it is postponing the largest-ever anti-missile military exercise with the United States for “technical” reasons days after President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reiterate his “unshakeable” commitment to Israel’s security.
The White House did not elaborate, but the president reportedly told the Prime Minister to back off any plans for attacking Iran.
The sudden postponement of the “Austere Challenge,” ballyhooed by observers as a saber-rattling message to Iran, officially was attributed to budgetary and logistical problems. However, considering Israel’s anxiety over Iran’s progress towards manufacturing a nuclear weapon, it is difficult to believe that money is a problem.
The IDF did not define what “logistical” problems could delay the military drill until the summer, three months after it was slated to begin. Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently visited Washington and spoke with U.S. military officials to start the anti-missile exercise in April.
A delay of another three months will give the Obama administration additional time to try to prove its sanctions against Iran are working, hopefully precluding the need for a military strike to stop Iran’s nuclear development.
“Austere Challenge” is to involve thousands of American troops and simulate defenses against missile attacks. Iran recently said it tested a long-range missile that can reach Israel and U.S. bases in the region.
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