The Middle East roils in crisis as a U.S. aircraft carrier entered one of the world’s most important choke point for oil shipments, the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to close if the United States raises sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The deployment of thousands of U.S. troops in Israel has raised speculation of an imminent war.
On December 20, the Jerusalem Post reported that Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the U.S. forces based in Germany, said that there will be a deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel.
An Egypt-based military expert, major general Jamal Mathloum, said that “there is a military strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Israel since the 1980s and there is definitely mutual understanding.” He added that the U.S. troop deployment might not necessarily mean a direct signal of war, but that it could be read as Israel and U.S. readiness in case of a conflict arising in the region.
“There is already a U.S. radar station in southern Israel, and might contain from 500 to 700 American soldiers operating there,” Mathloum said.
But for Abdulaziz Sager, chairman and founder of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, the deployment of U.S. troops in Israel is “definitely to send a clear signal to Iran.”
Sager said that there is a U.S.-Israel defense agreement that makes defending the Jewish state an obligation to the United States. In addition to that, U.S. President Barack Obama said in his last AIPAC meeting that the United States does not rule out any option against Iran.
According to debka.com, an Israeli website that provides political and security analysis, about 9,000 U.S. soldiers have already arrived in Israel. But Mathloum said this figure remains insignificant compared to the more than 100,000 American soldiers dispersed in 1,000 U.S. bases worldwide.
Lt.-Gen. Gorenc’s announcement came as he was visiting Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill. There will also be an establishment of American command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East, the newspaper reported.
But according to Elias Henna, a Lebanon-based expert in military issues, the deployment of 9,000 U.S. troops in Israel goes back to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and to support U.S. presence in the region and not to leave the “Arab field” open to further Iranian influence.
Asked why the United States did not increase its troop numbers in its military bases in the Persian Gulf, Henna said that both countries [Israel and United States] have far more compatible militaries, are bound with military agreements and that the United States has more freedom in Israel.
“Israel does not mind even if one million U.S. soldiers to be deployed in the Jewish state,” he added. As the U.S. and Israel continue their cooperation in light of the crisis looming around Iran, the Islamic Republic appears to remain unyielding.
On Sunday, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun, Abbasi Davani, reportedly said that Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facility will go on stream soon. Davani said that the Fordow nuclear enrichment plant will be operational in the near future and that around 20 percent, 3.5 percent and four percent enriched uranium can be produced at the site.
“There is no third party to verify about the site [Fordow] and truth about the announcement,” said Sager, adding “they can say all they want to say but there is no confirmation or verification.”