Joint US-Israel military exercise postponed 17Jan12 January 17, 2012

Ma’an News Agency  -  16 January 2012

JERUSALEM (Reuters) — The United States and Israel have postponed a joint military exercise due to be held in the coming weeks until later in the year, an Israeli security source told Reuters on Sunday.

“I can confirm the exercise has been postponed, probably to the end of 2012,” said the source, who declined to be named.

The air-defense drill, named “Austere Challenge 12″, is expected to be the largest-ever exercise between the two allies, who regularly hold joint military manoeuvres.

Israeli media reports originally said it was canceled due to budgetary constraints, but some pundits speculated that the real reason was to avoid further raising tensions with Iran, although when asked, the source ruled this out.

“It’s for a host of reasons, mainly logistical, but not the reason you cited (tensions with Iran). Israel and the US are expected to be putting out a joint statement soon,” the source said.

Israel sees the makings of a mortal threat in Iran’s uranium enrichment and missile projects, and the Israel’s leaders have not ruled out the use of military force to stop it.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen in recent weeks after US President Barack Obama signed a bill on New Year’s Eve that, if fully implemented, would make it impossible for most countries to pay for Iranian oil.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil shipping lane, if sanctions prevent it from exporting oil. The United States has said it will not tolerate such a move.

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