DEBKAfile – September 19, 2012
Reservists drafted at no notice, Air Force, Central Command and other IDF units were flown to Israel’s northern Golan border early Wednesday, Sept. 19, for a surprise exercise called by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz under the codename “National Asset.”
The official IDF announcement tried to downplay its importance, describing it as a “planned, routine event.” However, debkafile’s military sources say the war game is the biggest the IDF has conducted in the eight years since the second Lebanon war on Hizballah in 2006, with tens of thousands of soldiers and senior officers, including the artillery and the air force taking part.
Over the last weekend, witnesses reported heavy traffic of convoys of tank and APC carriers and military vehicles with emergency store markings heading north, just days after the IDF completed a large-scale war game on Israel’s Syrian and Lebanese borders simulating a Hizballah attack.
Since early September, therefore, the Israeli Defense Forces have been in the midst of preparations which have the appearance of readiness for a real war rather than an exercise. Those preparations peaked Wednesday under a codename which signified its goal: the defense of national assets.
Another sign of an impending conflict was provided by US diplomats who Monday began destroying classified documents and sensitive equipment at the Beirut embassy. As Islamist anti-US violence raged across Arab and Muslim countries, the State Department said this was a precautionary measure, without naming any specific threat. The trashing of embassy documents usually signifies preparations to evacuate an US embassy at short notice. It would be imperative in a war situation to keep them out of Hizballah hands.
The official IDF announcement described the exercise as focusing on fire power under the command of chief Artillery Commander, Brig. Gen. Ro’i Riftin and due to end Wednesday night. The rapid deployment of military strength on this scale for a live-fire drill is required practice for an army facing the onset of war aggression.
In the Persian Gulf, the US is leading 25 West European and Arab nations in a gigantic 12-day war game in the Straits of Hormuz which began Sunday, Sept 16. It includes a large-scale minesweeping drill to simulate the breaching of the Strait of Hormuz against Iranian efforts to block oil passage through the strategic waterway. The exercise – entirely by simulated measures – will also drill operations for destroying Iranian naval, air and missile bases in the Persian Gulf area and countering Iranian speedboats aiming to sabotage naval vessels and oil tankers.
Among the participants are the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The United States has deployed three aircraft carriers with aerial strike forces. Military sources estimate that when the war game ends on Sept 27, these forces will not disperse but stay on hand in the event of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear program.
As the exhibition of colossal Western might got underway opposite Iranian shores, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted on his official website as saying: Iran will never bend to Western pressure The Islamic Republic, he told a military audience, “makes its decisions solely based on the interests of its people and the country, even if all of the world’s powers get angry at its decisions.”
It “does not accept the demands of any superpower,” he added.
The Ayatollah also accused “Western and Zionist media” of fabricating reports on the biting effects of economic sanctions, hinting that the Iranian economy was not suffering.