'Israel, US to stage large-scale military drill when Iran nuclear deal expires'

Time: Planned exercise signals to Iran that West is keeping military option alive should the need arise to deny the Islamic Republic a nuclear bomb.

Prime Minister Netanyahu at Sunday's cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: Pool / Maariv)
Prime Minister Netanyahu at Sunday's cabinet meeting 370
(photo credit: Pool / Maariv)
The US and Israel will hold a large-scale joint military exercise in six months, Time magazine reported on Wednesday.
Israeli officials declined to comment on or confirm the report.
The drill, scheduled for May – which coincides with the deadline for talks between Iran and the international community – will come after a period in which Israel will seek to enhance further the military threat against Iran, the report said, citing an unnamed Israeli officer.
“Israel will likely continue to dissent, while making conspicuous efforts to rehabilitate the military threat that did so much to bring Tehran’s project onto the agenda,” the source was quoted as saying.
“The strategic decision is to continue to make noise,” he added.
The exercise will be part of a message sent by Israel, to both a domestic audience and to Iran, showing that the IDF is maintaining its ability to attack the Iranian nuclear program, the report continued.
But the US European Command told Time the exercise was planned ahead of time and was independent of any current developments. A spokesman for EUCOM added that a decision has not yet been made on the scale of the joint exercise.
Meanwhile, Iran has invited UN inspectors to visit its Arak heavy-water production plant on December 8, the first concrete step under a cooperation agreement to clarify concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said the IAEA was looking into how Sunday’s agreement between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear activity could be “put into practice” concerning the UN agency’s role in verifying the deal.
The IAEA will expand its monitoring of Iran’s uranium enrichment sites and other facilities under the interim accord, reached after marathon talks between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China.
“This will include the implications for funding and staffing,” Amano told the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board, according to a copy of his speech. “This analysis will take some time. I will consult the board as soon as possible when it has been completed.”
The IAEA’s visit next month to the heavy-water production plant near the town of Arak is part of a separate agreement signed earlier this month between the Vienna-based UN agency and Iran.
The IAEA has not been at the site for about two years, despite repeated requests, but Iran agreed on November 11 to grant access to this facility, as well as to a uranium mine, within three months.
The Arak facility produces heavy water intended for use in a nearby research reactor that is under construction. The West is concerned that the reactor, which Iran has said could start up next year, could yield plutonium for bombs once it is operational. Iran says it will produce medical isotopes.
Iran has agreed to halt installation work at the reactor and to stop making fuel for it.