IDF postpones Juniper Cobra amid Russian, Iranian tensions

Washington and Israel have signed an agreement that would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war.

IDF troops drill alongside US Marines as part of Juniper Cobra 2018​ (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
IDF troops drill alongside US Marines as part of Juniper Cobra 2018​
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

The Israeli military has postponed the upcoming missile-defense Juniper Cobra drill that was set to take part in March.

“The international Juniper Cobra exercise by the IDF and the United States Army that was scheduled to take place in March, has been postponed due to a variety of considerations and will take place at a later date, which will be announced later,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit wrote on Twitter.

“The IDF appreciates the close cooperation with the US Army and looks forward to joint training in the future,” it added.

The exercise was to have simulated a scenario in which American forces will be deployed to Israel in order to work alongside the IDF’s Air Defense Force and practice a variety of possible scenarios of missile threats in various sectors.

While the IDF refused to expand on why this year’s drill was postponed, the announcement comes as the US military has increased its troop presence in Ukraine amid increased tensions with Russia.

IDF troops drill alongside US Marines as part of Juniper Cobra 2018​ (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)IDF troops drill alongside US Marines as part of Juniper Cobra 2018​ (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Both Russia and the US have accused the other of planning false-flag operations as a pretext for a further military escalation. Though it has amassed about 100,000 troops as well as tanks, aircraft and other military platforms on Ukraine’s borders, Russia denies that it has plans to invade Ukraine.

Nevertheless, US President Joe Biden approved the deployment of 3,000 US service members to Germany, Poland and Romania.

The postponement also comes as Israel warns that Iran has been increasingly aggressive in the region while it is continuing to negotiate with Western countries about its nuclear program in Vienna.

The Biden administration on Friday restored a sanctions waiver that would allow countries to cooperate with Iran on civil nuclear projects at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power station, Arak heavy water plant and the Tehran Research Reactor. Washington said the move would allow Tehran to make modifications to its nuclear facilities.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday warned that the deal currently being negotiated would make it harder to stop Iran from achieving nuclear powers.

“We are responsible for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program and, of course, we are monitoring the Vienna talks,” he said during a cabinet meeting. “Our position is well-known and clear: An agreement – according to the apparent terms – will damage the ability to deal with the nuclear program. Anyone who thinks that an agreement will increase stability is mistaken.

“It will temporarily delay enrichment, but all of us in the region will pay a heavy, disproportionate price for it,” he added.

While the military contends that all drills are part of scheduled exercises and are not related to the high tensions with Iran, its threat – including its nuclear and ballistic-missile program – is the number one priority for the IDF.

Iran possesses more than 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and continues to smuggle weapons to countries and non-state actors such as Hezbollah – which is estimated to have an arsenal of some 150,000 missiles and rockets, – as well as to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Washington and Israel have signed an agreement that would see the US assist Israel with missile defense in times of war.

The biannual Juniper Cobra was also canceled in 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 10-day exercise was scheduled to see more than 2,500 US troops participating in Israel, Europe and the United States. The troops were supposed to have trained alongside 1,000 Israeli Aerial Defense troops, logistics units, medical forces and additional IDF units.