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Sep. 21 2009 - 5:46 am | 86 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

United States, Israel rehearsing for Iranian missile attack

An Arrow anti-ballistic missile interceptor

Image via Wikipedia

Several US Navy ships just landed in Haifa to conduct a massive wargame with Israel. The Israeli and American militaries are conducting an exercise simulating a multi-front conflict with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. The exercise, codenamed ‘Juniper Cobra 2009,’ is the largest joint US-Israeli drill in history.

Juniper Cobra 2009 will reportedly include (on the American side) the Aegis missile defense system and THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense). On the Israeli side, it will include the Arrow 2 ballistic missile defense system and other undisclosed elements.

THAAD includes PAC-3 missiles, ship-based interceptors and Raytheon x-band radars. According to Istanbuli paper Zaman:

The radar, which was sent to Israel last October as a parting gift from US President George W. Bush, would let Israel’s operational Arrow missile defense systems engage long-range Iranian Shahab-3 ballistic missiles about halfway through what would be its 11-minute flight to Israel from Iran, or six times sooner than Israel’s “Green Pine” radar is capable of doing. According to one expert, with the X-band system at work and connected to the US system, a missile intercept theoretically would take place over Iran or a neighboring state and not over Israel.

This radar system is located in Israel’s Negev Desert in the vicinity of the Nevatim Air Force Base. American personnel, based in Israel, under the supervision of EUCOM (United States European Command) man the radar system.

A similar x-band system is deployed in Hawaii to protect against a potential North Korean missile attack.

Falafel Mafia previously reported on a (seperate) large-scale Turkish/Israel/American naval exercise last month. Previous Juniper Cobra exercises took place in 2001 & 2007 involving American and Israeli missile cooperation.

In real world terms, it is important to note that this wargame is taking place at the exact same time that President Obama restructured America’s missile defense shield to protect against Iran rather than Russia. The Juniper Cobra exercise will focus extensively on missile defense. As Zaman noted, any missile interception might well take place over a neighboring state (likely Jordan or Saudi Arabia). For this reason and for others, it is likely that any imminent Israeli-Iranian war would bring other states into the mix. As proven by the recent behind-the-scenes diplomacy in the Middle East, there is quiet support among the leaders of many Middle Eastern states for an Israeli missile attack on Iran. This missile attack, presumably, would receive American support — as proven by this wargame exercise.

Meanwhile, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski is urging Barack Obama to ‘be serious about denying them [Israel] that right’ when it comes to Israeli planes flying over Iraq to strike Iran.

News of the wargame was leaked to the pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat by Israeli sources.


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  1. collapse expand

    It always amazes me how military things get hyped up over there. I don’t know why anybody would have to “leak” news of this year’s Juniper Cobra exercise. It’s a well-known biannual operation that involves the U.S. sending a thousand soldiers and a billion dollars worth of equipment to Israel for more than a month; it was also held in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007. The operation takes two years to plan and is described in detail on the U.S. Army’s website, http://www.army.mil/-news/2007/03/21/2349-usareur-units-participate-in-juniper-cobra-2007/

    The start of this year’s exercise was reported in Stars and Stripes on September 15, as 1,000 U.S. troops deployed from Europe to participate. http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=10&article=64775

    The paper quoted Lt. Commander Taylor Clark of the European Command, whose men were sent on the exercise, as saying this year’s Juniper Cobra “is not a response to the Iran threat.” Similarly, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot cited an unnamed official who said Juniper Cobra is routine and “does not simulate any specific occurrence in the region.”

    Given how far in advance any military exercise is planned – especially involving our premier detection and weapons sytems – the choice of “toys” for this exercise was made long ago. Previous Juniper Cobra exercises also have involved more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers and testing of Patriots, the THAAD system, Aegis BDMs, and Israel’s Arrow system. The X-band radar is new this year. (Wonder if they need X-Men to operate it?) This year’s operation is larger than that in 2007 in large measure because 2007’s had to be scaled down because of Israel’s war in Lebanon.

    This round of Juniper Cobra is certainly occurring at a tense time, with the coming U.S.-imposed deadline on Iran to demonstrate that it is halting nuclear activity, the Obama administration’s newly announced plans to shelve the Bush-era long-range European missile defense in favor of a medium-range system, and the leaders throughout the Middle East watching and hoping that the right-wing Israeli government doesn’t bomb Iran in a pre-emptive strike.

    • collapse expand

      True. Of the past Juniper Cobra exercises mentioned in the article and others, nearly all of them coincided with one crisis in the Middle East or another (is there any time when the Middle East is crisis-free, anyway?) – 2001 w/ the Second Intifada, 2003 w/ the build-up to the Iraqi invasion, 2005 w/ the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon & 2007 in the wake of the Israel-Hezbollah war.

      Interestingly – the 2007 JC exercise consisted of only 500 soldiers and was largely conducted via computer. Although the exercise took place well after the cessation of major activity between Israel & Hezbollah, the US presence in the exercise was heavily toned down (in deference to America’s Arab allies in the region?).

      Thanks to the combination of Israeli-Iranian tensions and Israel’s resistance to making concessions re: settlements, a strong US alibi also exists in this case to offer the same reduced troop involvement in 2009. But, ultimately, the US military chose not to – and precedents for suddenly cutting US troop involvement in pre-planned overseas training exercises do exist. Can’t recall the name of the operations, but sudden changes ~1 month before took place in some recent Central Asian & Pacific exercises.

      As for why IDF reps would be sending quiet (if blustering) mentions of the training exercise to journos at al-Sharq al-Aswat and al-Quds al-Arabi, well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

      With it looking more & more likely that Netanyahu is committed to attacking Iran, yeah… it’s a shame.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Neal, don’t you fall for the IDF hype and fake leaks about a routine exercise!

    Let’s just hope Netanyahu looks out at the UNGA this week, has an epiphany (I realize that’s a New Testament concept!), and decides to be a statesman

  3. collapse expand

    I hate to be so critical but here goes:

    “A similar x-band system is deployed in Hawaii to protect against a potential North Korean missile attack.”

    Missing from the article is any mention of the fact that all of these anti-missile systems have not performed when tested. Without this context this type of report risks adding to a false sense of security, which fosters acquiescence to military adventurism. The purpose of the exercise is most likely to assure Israelis that they can be protected lest they get cold feet about countenancing an attack.

    “Meanwhile, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski is urging Barack Obama to ‘be serious about denying them [Israel] that right’ ”

    Continued complacency problem. Z.B. is not in a position to assert anything within the Obama regime. Ungerlieder chose to include this arguably irrelevant point which only serves to relieve concerns about the likely actions that the Obama regime will take, yet missing is any reporting on Rahm Emmanuel, Hilary Clinton or Dennis Ross, actual regime appointees who ARE in a position to effect policy.

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    About Me

    A New York-based journalist and blogger who has spent extensive time in the Middle East and is currently working on an MA thesis in Middle Eastern Studies. My thesis focuses on the 2009 Iranian election demonstrations and their coverage in the international media.

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