The United States Air Force (USAF) will participate in aerial maneuver alongside the Israeli Air Force (IAF) as part of the multi-front Chariots of Fire exercise, according to Hebrew media, in what was described as “a signal of a credible military threat versus Iran.”
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
USAF will join the drill to refuel IAF aircraft during a potential all-out assault on Iran, said Israel’s Channel 13 News.
The maneuver, expected to be conducted between 29 May and 2 June, would simulate strikes on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear installations and other strategic targets, in addition to widescale incursions into neighboring countries which host Iranian-proxies.
And while TV7 has yet to corroborate the active participation by the USAF, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit has confirmed that US Central Command (CENTCOM) head General Michael Kurilla toured the highly-classified “Fortress of Zion” underground bunker earlier today to observe the Chariots of Fire drill – in a visit which on its own is unprecedented.
The Biden Administration has so far held back from confirming USAF participation in the IDF exercise.
“We have exercised and trained with Israeli Defense Forces we have a strong partnership with them, strong military-to-military relationship. I do not know, what role if any, we have as observers that are involved at all in this exercise,” stated Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
When asked at a press briefing whether ‘a military option is on the table’ amid reports that CENTCOM Commander General Michael Kurilla’s visit to Israel focused on coordinating the joint exercise simulating a strike on Iran, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price replied only that, “We believe that diplomacy and dialogue affords an opportunity to sustainably and durably and permanently put an end to Iran’s ability to produce or otherwise acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Asked further about Washington’s understanding regarding the alarming advances of Iran’s nuclear program and malign behavior throughout the region cited by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz yesterday, Price said, “As you might gather, much of this, some of this may be derived from elements that we typically don’t speak to in public. But of course, we do share information routinely with our Israeli partners. We have a common understanding across many fronts, and we share a common strategic interest and that is seeing to it that Iran is never able to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
The State Department Spokesman further asserted that following discussions US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley held with European Union Political Director Enrique Mora upon the European official’s visit to Tehran last Friday that, “outstanding issues pertaining to Iran’s nuclear program could be bridged and closed quite quickly and effectively, if Iran were to make the decision to do so.” The response contradicts acknowledged reports that the outstanding issue is not related to Tehran’s nuclear proliferation, but rather over demands by the Ayatollah regime that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from its blacklist of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
In related developments, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz travelled last night to Washington, where he will meet with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan for talks predominantly based on deepening bilateral strategies to confront Iran.
“We must unite forces with all moderate elements in our region,” Jerusalem’s top defense chief said on the tarmac of Ben Gurion International Airport just ahead of his departure, adding that he would discuss the intensification of “security cooperation and handling regional challenges, with chief focus on Iran.” He added that also on the agenda are matters “that are important to security of the globe, region and Israel,” as well as the war in Ukraine.