US-Israel Drill Signal to Iran That Military Option Is on the Table
Commander of the Central Command of the US Army (CENTCOM), Gen. Michael Kurilla, left, met on May 18, 2022, with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and observed the IDF’s ongoing major “Chariots of Fire” exercise. (IDF)

US-Israel Drill Signal to Iran That Military Option Is on the Table

Simulation of strike on Iranian territory also sends message to America’s regional partners, analysts say

The United States’ participation in an upcoming Israeli drill simulating a strike on Iran is intended to signal that a military option is on the table if the Islamic Republic does not return to diplomatic talks, analysts believe.

The US Air Force is set to conduct air-to-air refueling of Israeli fighter jets as they simulate a strike on Iranian territory, Israel’s Channel 13 reported on Tuesday evening. According to the report, the exercise will take place in two weeks as part of the IDF’s ongoing major “Chariots of Fire” exercise.

Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) Michael Kurilla landed in Israel on Wednesday to observe the IDF military drills.

The IDF began preparing for the large-scale drills more than a year ago and the exercise was originally slated to take place in May 2021, but was postponed due to Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza.

However, publicizing the US-Israel collaboration is potentially intended to send a message to Tehran amid stalled talks in Vienna about returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement, officially known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the analysts believe.

“In order to have a more flexible Iranian position, they need to have a credible military option,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told The Media Line.

“Americans don’t want a military confrontation but they are willing to threaten the Iranians: ‘Listen, the Israelis are getting ready,’” he said. “I think that the Iranians operate under two assumptions: one, that America is not willing to engage in a military adventure in Iran, and second, that Israel is not ready for it.”

I think that the Iranians operate under two assumptions: one, that America is not willing to engage in a military adventure in Iran, and second, that Israel is not ready for it

Although Inbar does not see am air strike taking place in the immediate future, he predicts that Israel could end up attacking the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities on its own with little to no outside help.

“We are on our own unfortunately,” Inbar said. “We don’t have the capabilities of the Americans, who have a much larger air force, but we have to take out only a few critical installations. We don’t have to destroy [the entire] nuclear infrastructure.”

Maj. Gen (ret.) Amos Gilead, formerly the director of policy and political-military affairs at Israel’s Ministry of Defense and executive director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at Reichman University, told The Media Line that the Chariots of Fire drills are intended to improve Israel’s defense readiness in the event of a military option, and nothing more.

“We are already in a confrontation with Iran; they’re sending unmanned aerial vehicles, Iranians to other places [to attack] and, according to foreign media, we’re striking them already in Syria,” Gilead said. “But this doesn’t mean that the drill is in preparation for war; rather, it’s an exercise to build capability. An army that does not carry out drills does not exist.”

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz is slated to meet with his US counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in Washington this week. Speaking at a conference in Herzliya on Tuesday, Gantz warned that Tehran’s nuclear capabilities are rapidly advancing and that it is “a few weeks” away from accumulating enough fissile material for a bomb.

It’s not the first time that the US and Israel are doing such a drill, so I would look at it as a signal to the Iranians that there is a willingness to explore other potential avenues for moving forward

Avi Melamed, founder of Inside the Middle East: Intelligence Perspectives, told The Media Line that, despite the breadth of the ongoing IDF drills, Tehran is unlikely to be very concerned because Iranian officials do not believe that the US is willing to engage in military force if negotiations fail.

“It’s not the first time that the US and Israel are doing such a drill, so I would look at it as a signal to the Iranians that there is a willingness to explore other potential avenues for moving forward,” Melamed said, adding that Washington is hoping to send a message to its regional partners, who are “concerned with some major concessions that the Biden administration is willing to do in the context of negotiations.”

The landmark JCPOA nuclear agreement that was reached between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, was intended to curb the Islamic Republic’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. The agreement has for the most part fallen apart since US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018 and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran’s authoritarian regime.

 

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