Exclusive: U.S. Scales Back Military Exercise with Israel, Affecting Potential Iran Strike

A smaller U.S. contingent may make it more difficult for the Israeli government to launch a pre-emptive strike on Tehran's nuclear program

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ABIR SULTAN / EPA

Israeli soldiers are seen during a military exercise in the Golan Heights on Aug. 21, 2012. Israel's armed forces have been conducting maneuvers amid rising tensions in the region

Seven months ago, Israel and the U.S. postponed a massive joint military exercise that was originally set to go forward just as concerns were brimming that Israel would launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The exercise was rescheduled for late October and appears likely to go forward on the cusp of the U.S. presidential election. But it won’t be nearly the same exercise. Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile-interception systems at the core of the joint exercise.

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“Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,’” a senior Israeli military official says.

The reductions are striking. Instead of the approximately 5,000 U.S. troops originally trumpeted for Austere Challenge 12, as the annual exercise is called, the Pentagon will send only 1,500 service members and perhaps as few as 1,200. Patriot antimissile systems will arrive in Israel as planned, but the crews to operate them will not. Instead of two Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense warships being dispatched to Israeli waters, the new plan is to send one, though even the remaining vessel is listed as a “maybe,” according to officials in both militaries.

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A Pentagon spokesperson declined to discuss specifics of the reduced deployment, noting that planning for the exercise was classified. But in an e-mailed statement, Commander Wendy L. Snyder emphasized that the Israeli military has been kept informed of the changes. “Throughout all the planning and coordination, we’ve been lockstep with the Israel Defense Forces and will continue to do so,” Snyder said.

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U.S. commanders privately revealed the scaling back to their Israeli counterparts more than two months ago. The official explanation was budget restrictions. But the American retreat coincided with growing tensions between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations on Israel’s persistent threats to launch an air strike on Iran. The Islamic Republic would be expected to retaliate by missile strikes, either through its own intermediate-range arsenal or through its proxy, the Hizballah militia, which has more than 40,000 missiles aimed at Israel from neighboring Lebanon.

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In the current political context, the U.S. logic is transparent, says Israeli analyst Efraim Inbar. “I think they don’t want to insinuate that they are preparing something together with the Israelis against Iran — that’s the message,” says Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “Trust? We don’t trust them. They don’t trust us. All these liberal notions! Even a liberal President like Obama knows better.”

The U.S. antimissile systems are important because while Israel has made great strides in creating antimissile shields that protect its population, it doesn’t have enough of them to deploy around the entire country, even with the U.S. aid specifically dedicated to building more (as well as crucial offensive capabilities, such as midair refuelers and possibly bunker-busting bombs). That makes the presence of the Patriots — first deployed to Israel during the First Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein launched Scuds toward the Jewish State — and other U.S. antimissile systems extremely valuable. Austere Challenge was billed by assistant secretary of state Andrew J. Shapiro last November as “by far the largest and most significant exercise in U.S.-Israeli history.” A stated goal was to “improve interoperability” between American and Israeli antimissile systems — which are already significantly linked. The U.S. maintains an X-band radar installation in Israel’s Negev Desert, pointed toward Iran and linked to Israel’s Arrow antimissile system.

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The radar is extraordinarily powerful, so sensitive that it can detect a softball thrown into the air from thousands of kilometers away. But as TIME reported earlier, only Americans are allowed to see what’s on the screens, a situation that likely serves to inhibit any Israeli decision to “go at it alone” against Iran, because the U.S. array can detect an Iranian missile launch six to seven minutes earlier than Israel’s best radar. Difficult as it may be to imagine U.S. decisionmakers holding back information that could save Israeli lives, both by giving them more time to reach a shelter, or their interceptors to lock onto and destroy an incoming Shahab-3, the risk looms in the complex calculus of Israeli officials mulling an attack on Iran.

Inside Israel, reports persist that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense chief Ehud Barak are determined to launch a strike, and American officials continue to urge restraint. Israeli analysts say Netanyahu wants Obama to send a letter committing to U.S. military action by a specific date if Iran has not acceded to concessions, but the U.S. Administration does not appear to be complying. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey told reporters in London this week that a military strike could damage but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capability and added, “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.”

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1251 comments
azabigail
azabigail

Isreal is wise not to trust the current U.S administration..... WND Drew Zahnd..........Nearly 2.5 million people have viewed a YouTube documentary made by former military and CIA officers blasting Barack Obama – (and any president) – for leaking national intelligence secrets for political gain. “There’s a cost for our leaders grabbing for glory,” the video states. “Politics should never come before national security.” The 22-minute video, titled “Dishonorable Disclosures,” was released only last week by Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, or OPSEC for short, an independent watchdog organization designed to stop U.S. leaders from politically capitalizing on national security secrets and to educate the public on the importance of operational security.OPSEC accuses Obama of nearly a dozen breaches of national security, beginning with foolishly announcing the death of Osama bin Laden “to prop up his presidency politically,” rather than keeping a silent cover in order to use the information obtained in the bin Laden raid.“In a few brief moments of selfish grandstanding and political opportunism,” OPSEC asserts, “our commander in chief lost the single opportunity to exploit intelligence that, had secrecy been preserved, might well have crushed al-Qaida once and for all. “Beyond this,” OPSEC continues, “the disclosure by the administration of a host of classified details pertaining to intelligence gathering by the various agencies prior to the raid, as well as voluminous details about the raid itself, puts American military and intelligence personnel at severe risk of not just a failure of a future mission, but death or injury incurred because the opponents now better know and understand the practices that our Special Operations forces and intelligence gatherers employ.”OPSEC accuses the current administration of several instances of putting political gain in front of national security interests, including: Immediately publicizing the killing of Osama bin Laden rather than waiting “to fully exploit the treasure trove of information taken by SEAL Team Six”;Endangering the lives of a special mission unit by revealing its name, location and parent unit;

Leaking sensitive details “anonymously” to the media by “unnamed officials”;

Giving Hollywood movie makers special access to Defense and CIA details of the Osama bin Laden operation;

****Disclosing the tactics used in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound;

****Disclosing details that have already led to the capture, imprisonment and deadly peril of U.S. sources inside Pakistan;

****Deliberately disclosing U.S. and Israeli involvement with computer viruses targeting Iran’s nuclear program;

***Disclosing a joint U.S-British-Saudi covert operation that planted a spy inside Al Qaeda;

****Disclosure of details on drone use and a president-sanctioned “kill list.”These actions, “put Americans military and intelligence personnel at severe risk both now and in the future,” the organization claims. “How many will be lost as a result of these reckless disclosures?”Of course, In the wake of the documentary’s surge in popularity, the Obama re-election campaign quickly condemned the video as partisan and pointed fingers at Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Ben LaBolt, of the Obama campaign, told the New York Times, “The Republicans are resorting to Swift Boat tactics because when it comes to foreign policy and national security, Mitt Romney has offered nothing but reckless rhetoric. ”Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., further released a statement also accusing OPSEC of attempting to “Swift Boat” the Obama campaign, a reference to former military officers during Kerry’s unsuccessful run for the presidency questioning his Vietnam War record.****However, Scott Taylor, an ex-Navy SEAL and president of OPSEC, quoted Kerry’s own words right back to him, as reported in The Hill just two months ago: “A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests,” Kerry said in JUNE. “I think they’re dangerous, damaging and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”“John Kerry’s partisan campaign statement … failed to acknowledge his previous concern that leaks under the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION were dangerous and damaging,” Taylor said in a statement. (So essentially“John Kerry set aside his serious concerns about the impacts of security leaks on our country in order to issue a partisan campaign press release.)”Though Taylor had formerly run for office in Virginia as a Republican, he rebutted charges that OPSEC is inherently partisan.“This issue is more than just politics,” Taylor told the Times. “Folks from this group, including me, have buried enough of our buddies.”The video includes interviews with former CIA and Special Forces officers, Navy SEALs and others who insist the announcement and the details disclosed by the administration following the raid on bin Laden’s compound compromised national security.A man identified as a former Navy SEAL in the video says, “As a citizen, it is my civic duty to tell the PRESIDENT to stop leaking information to the enemy. It will get Americans killed. Members of both political parties in Congress have been critical of the string of information leaks under the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. “I believe the president made a serious mistake by ANNOUNCING many details of the [bin Laden] operation,” former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., himself a former SEAL, wrote in a New York Daily news opinion piece. “By describing certain methods – the name of the unit involved, the kinds of equipment employed, the nature of intelligence collected and techniques of insertion and extraction used in the operation – the president violated a key rule of clandestine work.”“What we’re seeing … is an Anschluss, an avalanche of leaks. And it’s very, very disturbing,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., following a New York Times report revealing U.S. involvement in the Stuxnet virus that targeted Iranian nuclear centrifuges.“With each leak, our allies are left to wonder how much they can trust us with their secrets,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., referring to the presidential “kill list” leak. “Some in the administration have decided that scoring political points in an election year outweighs intelligence operations.”Even FBI Director Robert Mueller, following disclosure that the U.S. had a spy in al-Qaida’s Yemenese affiliate, said, “Leaks such as this threaten ongoing operations, puts at risk the lives of sources, makes it much more difficult to recruit sources and damages our relationships with our foreign partners.”

flamestar
flamestar

 If Obama is reelected and the nation survives then you are a traitor.

azabigail
azabigail

That must be the kool-aid talking Flamer, if Obama is re-elected America will NOT survive and remain the powerful sovereign nation that it has always been. My allegiance, and that of my fellow TRUE Americans is to AMERICA, not to Obama, or anyone that would compromise Americas' strength and sovereignty. Millions in America have come very close to calling Obama treasonous, but that doesn't bother him, he has stayed steady in his agenda to "change" America from the powerful sovereign nation that it has always been to a subjugated, government owned socialistic welfare state. As to why some feel that there might be reason to impeach Obama. Beside abuse of power, a previous poster listed just a few reasons, here is a portion of the post: "There is an avalanche of evidence that Obama has committed numerous crimes against the Constitution. Here are only a few examples:

**He violated the Constitution by appointing executive branch officials when the Senate was in recess**.He approved leaks of sensitive national security information for purely political gain.**He improperly used executive privilege to block a congressional investigation of Eric Holder’s participation in the illegal Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal.**He violated congressional authority by ordering an end to the lawful deportation of illegal immigrants.**He ordered or personally approved grants and contracts to private companies as a payoff for political campaign support.

The list goes on. These are not mere policy disagreements. Any president of any party who behaves in this manner ought to be removed through the constitutional prescribed manner."

flamestar
flamestar

 Everything you named Bush did too. Should he have been impeached. The country has not changed since he took power if you were right we would all be muslims now.

flamestar
flamestar

I don’t like Obama and I don’t plan

to vote for him. I don’t agree with his immigration policy but I want to you

learn. Despite his endorsement of the DREAM

Act, President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any president in

history."

 

"He's been deporting about 400,000 people a year, about double the

number in the George W. Bush administration."

Do you think they should have impeached Bush?

flamestar
flamestar

 w you have no education. You accept absurd statements from people on the radio as fact because you know nothing about the way the country works. You don't know how to check up on what is said. Moreover you don't even remember what has been said to see it is turns out to be true or not.

It is not a violation of the constitution to appoint a federal official when the congress is in recess. If you had gone to college you would know the Supreme Court would throw it out. Here you are worrying about appointments of people who can't hurt America and then you ignore 9/11.

Since the beginning of the United States, recess appointments have been used by presidents to avoid senatorial approval of nominees. After the Senate failed to confirm John Rutledge as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, President George Washington waited until a Senate recess and appointed him there.

More recently, presidents have turned to recess appointments frequently: President Ronald Reagan used this privilege 243 times. President George H.W. Bush used this privilege 77 times. President Bill Clinton used this privilege 140 times. President George W. Bush has used privilege 171 times

Should we have impeached George Washington. What about Ronald Reagan.

Clause 2: Advice and Consent Clause

The President exercises the powers in the Advice and Consent Clause with the advice and consent of the Senate.He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

flamestar
flamestar

 Talk about drinking the koolaid this is what you think is great. 

Under Clinton we had a robust economy, a balanced budget,

low unemployment.  Then the Republicans

took over.  1. The Republican Tax cuts

under Bush led to a 33 % increase in the debt in his first term and a 40%

increase in the second.  2. In 9/11 we

had the greatest terrorists attack on US soil.  3. We invaded Afghanistan.  Lack of regulation let to shoddy equipment

from war profiteers and Republican stupidly caused a military disaster.  4. We invaded Iraq.  Lack of regulation let to shoddy equipment

from war profiteers and Republican stupidly caused a military disaster.  5. The hurricane Katrina effect was made much

worse because Republicans are against any government action and they oppose

helping people on principle. 6. Unregulated markets led to the dot com bubble.

7. The Republicans took off all the regulations and Ponzi gamers like Madoff

robbed widows and orphans.  8. The

Republicans cut regulations for mortgages and we had a mortgage crisis.  9. Lack of regulations led to giant bonuses

allowing executives to loot companies making them worthless.  10. The stock market crashed because

companies were worthless.

flamestar
flamestar

 These are not polity disagreement they are treason on your part and Obama is nothing but a Republican whore.  .

flamestar
flamestar

 I will go into this in greater depth latter. But I will show that the appointments are in accord with the Construction. If they weren't the Republican dominated Supreme Court would throw it out. The  important thing is you believe the sky is falling rhetoric from blatant liars because you have become mindless fanatics. In reality Bush is more harm to the country then the last 5 presidents combined and you don''t even know it.  While Obama have simply copied the Republicans but you have lost your mind. The fact is you can not thing or be reasoned with.

azabigail
azabigail

But millions of Americans are with and for Israel, and we will do everything we can to exert pressre on our government to be there for Israel. Pray that this election will bring good change to the U.S, and a president that will be more loyal to America and its' allies.

Rolf Steiner
Rolf Steiner

“Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,’” a senior Israeli military official says..."  Nor should we.  Benjamin N lies through his teeth.  New settlements go up with his blessing and somewhere in the world another American soldier dies.  It's time for the USA to smarten up and cut the cord and let the jews go it alone. 

yaquidrl
yaquidrl

How many Palestinians have been killed by Israelis since 1948?  Answer: 1.5 Million

julis123
julis123

Its amazing how Obama has screwed every American ally and sucked up every American enemy

Knowles2
Knowles2

An Romney screwed with the UK over the Olympics, an he did not make many other friends with his foreign visits. 

tigertooth
tigertooth

 Is it true that the DNC will open the convention with an extended musssie prayer? Will they be passing out 'prayer' rugs with a compass to show  them  the direction they should be facing when they pray to allah???? WAKE UP AMERICA

Joseph Gnomes
Joseph Gnomes

Israeli Hasbara troll, stirring up Islamophobia. One only needs to look 2 posts down for my prediction of this.

Scotty_A
Scotty_A

Netanyahu is an idiot. America is dedicated to the security of Israel. Netanyahu has a poor track record in governing Israel and should be replaced. Most of the Israeli security establishment does not see much of a plan to deal with the aftermath of a airstrike by Netanyahu.

azabigail
azabigail

So everyone just wants to sit back and wait until the Mullahs and Amadinejad do what they have sworn they were going to do? I doubt very seriously that Israeli citizens would appreciate it if Netanyahu did nothing but wait until Iran wipes Israel off the face of the map. Netanyahu is admired by billions of Judeo-Christians in America and in the world.