Thousands of Israeli, American soldiers to take part in biennial ‘Juniper Cobra’ drill, amid escalating Israel-Iran tensions
The Israeli military on Thursday began its final preparations for a major air defense exercise with the United States, which is set to kick off at the beginning of next month, the army said.
While the Juniper Cobra exercise, which was first held in 2001, is scheduled every two years, it comes at a time of growing tension between Israel and Iran and the Iranian proxy Hezbollah. This year’s exercise simulates a massive ballistic missile attack against Israel and is also meant to improve ties between the two armies.
The exercise will largely be performed through advanced computer simulations, though it will also include some real-world activities.
In total, some 4,500 soldiers from the two militaries will take part in the exercise — 2,500 of them from the United States’ European Command (US EUCOM) and 2,000 from the Israel Defense Forces. This is a substantial increase from the 2016 exercise, in which some 3,200 soldiers took part.
The Juniper Cobra exercise is scheduled to begin on March 4 and will formally run until March 15, though some American troops will stay in Israel and continue training with the IDF until the end of the month, the army said.
The threat from ballistic and guided missiles is one of the most significant threats facing Israel, and Israeli officials say it is growing.
The Iran-backed, Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization is suspected of maintaining a stockpile of some 150,000 missiles, which it could rain down on Israel at a rate of over 1,000 missiles a day in a future war.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also revealed to the Munich Security Conference that Iran was looking to outfit the group with superior, precision-guided missiles, capable of hitting a target with an accuracy of a few dozen meters.
Iran too has an advanced ballistic missile program.
Speaking at an annual conference held by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies last month, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Lebanon will be held to account in a future war because, led by the terrorist Hezbollah group, it has “sacrificed its national interests by subjugating fully to Iran.”
“Lebanon’s army and Hezbollah are the same — they will all pay the full price in the event of an escalation,” Liberman said. “If a conflict does break out in the north, ‘boots on the ground’ remains an option. We won’t allow scenes like in 2006, where we saw citizens of Beirut on the beach while Israelis in Tel Aviv sat in shelters… If people in Tel Aviv will be in bomb shelters, all of Beirut will be in bomb shelters.”
Liberman was referring to the Second Lebanon War, during which dozens of Israelis were killed in the north in rocket attacks — though Tel Aviv did not come under attack.
Over the past year, Israel has often warned of a growing Iranian influence in Lebanon, with Liberman telling United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in August that Iran is “working to set up factories to manufacture accurate weapons within Lebanon itself.”
Full article: IDF, US troops get ready for drill to simulate massive missile attack on Israel (The Times of Israel)