U.S. forces in Israel for missile drill

October 9, 2009

Amid smoldering tension with Iran, U.S. forces are deploying in Israel for a strategically important ballistic missile defense exercise, considered one of the most complex ever conducted by the two allies.

Juniper Cobra 2009, the latest in a biennial series that began in 2001, will focus on how well U.S. and Israeli forces can integrate and operate together in any future confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

U.S. officials insist that the exercise, due to commence Monday and end next Friday, is routine. “This exercise is not related to or in response to any world events,” the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv stressed.

But the maneuvers have taken on added importance since the U.S. administration scrapped plans to deploy land-based ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe in August. The focus will now be on U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean and the North Sea.

“Military exercises like Juniper Cobra do not take place in a vacuum,” according to the Texas-based security consultancy Strategic Forecasting. …