The US and Israel cancel a joint military drill, which was originally scheduled to be held in spring, in what seems to be a sign of deepening rifts between the age-old allies.
On January 5, Israeli military announced that Tel Aviv is gearing up for a major missile defense exercise, codenamed Austere Challenge 12, with US forces.
According to DEBKAfile, a recent comment by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon sparked a dispute between Washington and Tel Aviv and prompted the White House to call off the January 15 drill.
Speaking in an early morning radio interview, the Israeli official said the United States was hesitant over sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank and oil sector for fear of a spike in oil prices.
Following his interview, Washington announced that the exercise had been officially postponed from spring 2012 to the last quarter of the year over “budgetary constraints” – an obvious diplomatic locution for cancellation.
An unnamed military source told DEBKAfile that the White House made the announcement urgently at an unusually early hour Washington time to underscore the Obama administration’s total disassociation from any preparations to attack Iran. Washington also aimed to stress its position that if an attack took place, Israel alone would be accountable.
The friction between Israel and US, came to the surface last week by the deep resentment aroused in Israel by Washington’s harsh condemnation of the assassination last Wednesday, Jan. 11, of Iran’s nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan.
The report added that prior to the cancellation, the US had started building up its military presence around Iran by stationing nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait and keeping two aircraft carriers in the region: The USS Carl Vinson, the USS John Stennis and their strike groups.
A third carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, is also on its way to the Persian Gulf.
Therefore, DEBKAfile added, “The “budgetary constraints” pretext for cancelling Austere Challenge 12 is hard to credit since most of the money has already been spent in flying 9,000 US troops into Israel this month.”
The cancellation, according to the report, proves that the US and Israel are discordant in three main areas:
1. While Obama needs more time to persuade countries to back his sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank and oil sector, Israel seeks rapid action against Iran before the end of 2012;
2. President Obama insists on the US acting alone in attacking Iran with no Israeli military involvement in order to safeguard Washington against the surprise consequences of a lone Israeli action. Israel has declined to make this commitment – even in the face of US efforts at persuasion;
3. US military strategists are counting on an Iranian reprisal for an attack on its nuclear sites to be restrained and limited to certain US military assets in the region and expect Israel to refrain from striking back for Iranian attacks and to leave the payback option entirely in American hands. No Israeli official, however, is willing to leave defending Israel in American hands or relinquish unilateral military options against Iran.
The report concluded that in the light of credible intelligence that Iran is very close to achieving its nuclear goal, Israel is holding on to its military option over American objections.
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