U.S.-Israel Exercises Signal Capabilities to Iran, Not U.S. Willingness to Strike

The United States and Israel recently concluded their largest ever combined military exercise, Juniper Oak, a massive, week-long, multidomain drill clearly designed to signal to Tehran the full extent of U.S.-Israeli joint military capability. This is the culmination of a two-year trend of U.S.-Israel exercises increasing in frequency and operational focus on the Iranian threat. Yet, as significant as the exercise was, it is unlikely that, by itself, it will serve as an effective deterrent against Iran.

Deterring Iran from attaining a nuclear weapons capability requires convincing the Iranian regime that either the United States, on its own or together with Israel, or Israel operating on its own are not only capable, but willing to execute a preventive strike against its nuclear facilities. However, the United States has not demonstrated a credible willingness to act militarily against Iran, regardless of the joint U.S.-Israeli capabilities displayed in Juniper Oak. Although Israel has repeatedly proven its willingness to act, Juniper Oak underscored that the United States has not expedited delivery to Israel of the capabilities Israel needs to make a strike as effective as possible.

To strengthen deterrence against Iranian nuclear development and aggression, the United States should employ more consistent military force when Iranian-backed groups target U.S. troops, consider kinetic action to disrupt Iran’s supply of drones to Russia, expedite the delivery to Israel of capabilities that would strengthen its ability to strike independently—particularly KC-46A aircraft refueling tankers and additional F-15s—and replenish the U.S. prepositioned ammunitions stockpile in Israel with precision-guided munitions.

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Ari Cicurel – Assistant Director of Foreign Policy