TEL AVIV: As the COVID-19 virus hammers Iran, killing senior government officials and at least several thousand citizens, Israel may be readying for a confrontation, even as the US signals that it is ready to act against Iranian forces on Iranian soil, should it be necessary.
A joint military exercise of the IAF and the U.S. Air Force started yesterday over southern Israel. Expected to end tomorrow, a large number of F-35 fighters will perform a variety of missions over the desert.
According to the IDF, the exercise will be conducted only in the air. Israel defense sources told Breaking Defense the exercise includes large formations of fighter aircraft, including F-35s, performing joint attacks on ground targets with the two air forces sharing targeting data. The sources said the U.S fighter aircraft flew to Israel from the Gulf region and are air-refueled. No US aircraft will land in Israel.
The United States and the United Arab Emirates held a large exercise, Native Fury, on Monday with troops from both countries operating side by side at Al Hamra Military Base. They practiced clearing and taking a Middle East city with 4,000 U.S. troops from the Army, Marines and Navy. They used armored vehicles and other equipment from Kuwait and the island of Diego Garcia.
The US Ambassador to UAE, John Rakolta, told the Associated Press that the exercise was “defensive in nature,” when asked about Iran. “I don’t believe that they’re intended to demonstrate a provocative act to the Iranians to say we’re coming,” he told the AP. “Rather, we’re protecting ourselves and we want to sit down at the conference table and negotiate a lasting peace settlement.” The fact that the US and UAE went ahead with the exercise in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic speaks volumes about both the trust between the two states, as well as their intention to send a clear message to nearby Iran.
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