Israel, U.S. postpone joint anti-missile exercise

The joint U.S.-Israel Arrow Weapon System successfully intercepted a ballistic target missile, Feb. 22, 2011.

By Ron Kampeas, JTA

WASHINGTON — The United States and Israel have delayed a major joint anti-missile exercise against a backdrop of heightened tensions with Iran. 

Sources in both countries said that the exercise, the largest of its kind, would be delayed from its planned spring date until the summer at the earliest.

Reasons for the postponement principally had to do with budget cuts in Israel, an Israeli official said.

However, the cancellation also comes against a background of increasing tensions with Iran, where some officials in the regime have suggested that Iran could shut down the Strait of Iran, choking off much of the West’s oil supply, if western nations press ahead with increased sanctions.

There have also been reports of increased tensions between the administrations of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s alleged refusal to share with the United States whether or not it plans to strike Iran.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is due to arrive in Israel Thursday.

His visit was originally touted as part of the planning of the joint anti-missile exercise, but reports now say he will press Israel not to strike Iran.

Western nations believe Iran is advancing a nuclear weapons program. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes.