The United States and Israel on Monday began what an American official described as the largest joint military exercise ever, involving thousands of troops, a dozen ships and 142 aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombing strikes.
The exercise, dubbed “Juniper Oak,” will run until Friday and is intended to demonstrate deeper integration between the US and Israeli forces, a senior Pentagon official said, amid rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
While the exercises are likely to attract attention from Tehran, the source explained that they would not involve simulated Iranian targets and would not be targeted at any specific enemy.
The official said, “I think the scale of the exercise is relevant to a wide range of scenarios, and Iran may get a hint of that,” although “it’s really hard to do things of that scale with Israel against a number.” to free our potential.” of various dangers”.
He said the drills included five live-fire exercises involving 6,400 US troops, many aboard the George HW Bush aircraft carrier battle group. About 450 will be on the ground in Israel.
Planning for the exercise began just two months before Israel’s conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power on 29 December.
Israel has opposed US President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive the world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran, saying it will not prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
However, talks have been sidelined for now as Washington presses Iran to stop supplying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and seeks to stem Tehran’s crackdown on protesters who have been protesting for months.
The senior official made it clear that the US’s commitment to Iran’s security is unwavering.
“We’ve had Israeli governments of different stripes come and go, but that doesn’t change our strong commitment to Israel’s security. So this is a sign that we will continue to support Israel in times like these. When there’s a lot of unrest and insecurity.” in the field.”, he claimed.
He also said that “Iran’s nuclear program remains worrisome” and that “it is more advanced than ever.”
“Their knowledge and experience have grown and the challenge is greater,” he said.
The official said the exercise would demonstrate how the United States could build up large numbers of combat-ready forces in the Middle East, even as it faces Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and intensifying competition with China. is concentrated.
“When our adversaries and competitors try to measure themselves against the US military, I suspect they will not fail to note our ability to do so because, frankly, no other military body on the planet can do so.” can do,” he said.
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