U.S. and Israel Display Combat Capabilities, But Deterrence Against Iran Still Deficient

The United States appears to be trying to increase its deterrent signaling toward Iran. The U.S.-Israel Juniper Oak 23.3 military exercise in mid-July—the eighth joint training already this year—and the late-July deployment of U.S. combat aircraft, naval vessels, and Marines to the Middle East are all clearly geared toward demonstrating U.S. military capabilities. But such activities are not enough to convince Tehran that America has a willingness to act itself—or support its Israeli partner in acting—against Iran’s nuclear program or regional aggression. To show that it remains undeterred, Iran has launched its own military exercises and weapons displays in recent weeks.

To bolster deterrence in the region, the United States should continue its own deployments and patrols, but also ensure that Israel is equipped with the necessary armaments—particularly KC-46A refueling tankers—to defend itself, as JINSA has proposed in its recent report No Daylight: U.S. Strategy if Israel Attacks Iran. However, combat capabilities alone will not suffice to maintain deterrence.

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Yoni Tobin – Policy Analyst