On Monday, the American and Israeli militaries began a weeklong, large-scale joint exercise in Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, involving 6,400 personnel from the U.S. armed forces and 1,180 from the IDF—not to mention all kinds of aircraft, ships, and other materiel. Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst provide an overview of the exercise, known as Juniper Oak, and explain the signals it is meant to convey in the region:
The message to Jerusalem is that the American commitment to Israel’s security remains rock-solid. One can certainly compliment or criticize various Biden administration national-security and foreign policies, particularly toward Iran, but the exercise this week represents a major and positive milestone in U.S.-Israel security cooperation—and the White House, the Pentagon, and U.S. Central Command deserve credit for making it happen.
In addition to the positive message this sends to Jerusalem about American commitment, Washington hopes America’s partners in the region—including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others—take note. The administration’s intended message to them is that the United States military has not completely departed from the region, does not intend to depart from the region, and retains an unmatched ability to [direct] additional combat forces into the region quickly when necessary to conduct military operations.
Perhaps the most important message from the exercise is intended for Tehran and its terror proxies. . . . The Biden administration wants Tehran to understand that the United States has both the military means and the political will to stand with Israel, secure American interests in the region, and conduct successful large-scale strikes if necessary.
The military muscle on display this week certainly demonstrates some of this capability. The ability to deter aggression from Tehran and its terror proxies, however, will depend on their perceptions of the willingness of Washington and Israel actually to use force if necessary.