Israeli-U.S. Military Drill Called Off Amid Tensions with Iran

News outlets in Israel report that a planned military exercise was called off because U.S. officials didn't want to further antagonize countries in the Middle East, especially Iran.

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News reports in Israel say a planned joint military exercise between that country and the U.S. has been postponed because of American concerns about raising the already heightened tensions with other countries in the Middle East, especially Iran.

Key passage from Haaretz:

According to an Israeli defense official, Washington wants to avoid causing further tensions in the region, especially in light of the sensitive situation that has been generated after various reports in the international media that the U.S. and Israel are preparing to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

The drill, codenamed Austere Challenge 12, was supposed to simulate missiles fired by Iran or other antagonistic states landing in Israel. Defense officials told Channel 2 on Sunday that the drill is now scheduled to take place in the summer.

The drill would have brought thousands of American soldiers to the region, even as reports (and rumors) persist about the possibility of U.S. and Israeli involvement in attacks like the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist last week. Last week, reports that the U.S. had opened back channel negotiations with Tehran seemed to show that the Americans wanted to let Iran know they are serious enough to do something if provoked — i.e. if Iran makes good on threats and closes the Strait of Hormuz to shipping. The postponement of a potentially provocative drill shows the situation is actually so serious that the U.S. is willing to not do something, too.

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