US downgrades anti-missile drills with Israel; sends CIA’s Petraeus instead to ease tensions
Petraeus, the 59-year-old former commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, arrived in Israel on Monday to deal with what the Jewish state’s Debka news agency calls the “flames of discord” that have been fanned feverishly in recent days thanks to the latest news on a missile drill slated for next month. The United States had previously agreed to participate at the beginning of 2012 in what was expected to be the largest joint missile exercise ever between the US and Israel, only for the program to be pushed back to October. Now the US says that they are drastically scaling back on the degree to which they are taking part, not just revoking its number of troops involved by more than one-third, but also calling into question how serious the United States might be about helping out allies in Israel in the event of a war with Iran, an outcome some have suggested is all but eventually certain.“Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,’” one senior Israeli military official tells Time Magazine this week on condition of anonymity.Previously the US had agreed to send over around 5,000 troops to test Patriot missiles as part of the Austere 12 challenge; now they stand to send as few as 1,200, which effectively means that some of Patriot system will not be participating in the drills altogether, as a crew shortage preventing them from being tested . The United States has not officially announced if it plans on making any changes to its ship-based Aegis system, which it is slated to test net month alongside Israel's own Arrow, Patriot and Iron Drone missiles. Debka adds in their report that it is now uncertain, however, as to whether or not the US will still dispatch any of its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense warships.Now as Israeli/Iranian tensions continue to worsen, the US is acting uncertain about what role it may have in any war plans. Debka reports that Petraeus has been put in Israel to handle the blowback and ensure America’s faithful allies that all is well in terms of America’s intentions. Only days earlier, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters in London that he doesn’t “want to be complicit” if Israel chooses to unilaterally attack Iran as tensions mount, and that such a strike would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”Responding to what the dispatch of Petraeus could be doing to ease Israeli minds, Chicago-based reporter Stephen Lendman writes on Indybay.org this week that any meeting between US and Israeli officials won’t, at this time, establish a deal.“Washington has its own timetable,” Lendman writes. “Netanyahu's bluster won't change it.”In Israel, however, officials seem much more adamant about getting America on board. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters, "I believe that the truth must be said, the international community [not the US] is not drawing a clear red line for Iran, and Iran does not see international determination to stop its nuclear program.”"Until Iran sees this clear red line and this determination, it will not stop its advancement of the Iranian nuclear program. Iran must not have a nuclear weapon," the PM said.According to remarks made last week by Gen. Dempsey, “Intelligence did not reveal intentions” that Israel is procuring nukes. US President Barack Obama has said that, until Iran fully relinquishes their nuclear warheads, “All options are on the table” in terms of a US attack. This week’s meeting between Petraeus and Israeli officials stands to solidify that role.