A major joint Israel-US military drill, which was set to take place in a few weeks time with the participation of thousands of IDF and US army soldiers, has been postponed by at least six months, Ynet reported Sunday
The decision was made by Defense Ministry officials in coordination with the Pentagon.
A number of global media outlets said the exercise will likely take place in the summer – at the earliest.
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Israeli officials said the Americans asked to delay the drill so as not to heighten tensions with Iran over its nuclear program and avoid drawing any additional attention from the Arab countries during such a turbulent period.
Security establishment officials said the decision was also related, in part, to budgetary concerns.
The decision to postpone the drill comes after the US condemned last week's assassination of a nuclear scientist in Tehran and after US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the recent developments in the Islamic Republic.
Budgetary concerns. Previous US-Israel drill (Archive photo: Ziv Koren)
Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet's military analyst, said Washington is looking to defuse tensions in the region following Iran's military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz and the raid by Iranian protesters on the British Embassy in Tehran.
The Americans also hope the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran will force it to engage in talks over its nuclear program, he said.
According to Ben-Yishai, the decision to delay the drill is also related to financial concerns. Washington has cut its defense budget for 2012 by $450 billion dollars – a move which is aimed at helping the US tackle its national debt, which has affected the country's credit rating.
During the drill, which just a few days ago was dubbed the largest joint US-Israel exercise ever, the countries were set to test air-defense capabilities, as well as test-fire new missiles.
Washington and its allies have stepped up increasingly harsh sanctions on Iran over its nuclear enrichment program, which they charge is part of a secret drive to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran insists its atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful and has vowed to retaliate against any strike on its facilities.
Tensions again flared following Wednesday’s killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in a bombing Tehran blamed on US and Israeli intelligence services. US officials have denied any involvement.
Yoav Zitun, AFP contributed to the report
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