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News analysis: Postponed Israel-U.S. military drill exposes regional standoff over Iran

By Adam Gonn (Xinhua)

09:43, January 17, 2012

JERUSALEM, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- A joint Israeli-American missile defense exercise has been postponed because of regional tensions, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.

The exercise, called "Austere Challenge 12," was scheduled to take place in spring and was to focus on improving defense systems and cooperation between the two allies.

On Sunday, a senior Israeli security official confirmed that the exercise was now being put back to late 2012.

The decision comes at a time where there is both increased tension between the United States and Iran, as well as uncertainty over a possible Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

Iran argues that its nuclear program is for the peaceful production of electricity, while Israel, the United States and several other Western nations claim that it is being used to produce a nuclear weapon.

"The situation with Iran is always complicated," Dr. Ephraim Kam of Tel Aviv University told Xinhua on Monday.

"Since the last two weeks there is a growing tension between Iran and the United States, perhaps more than was expected," he added. "And I think that there is on the American side and perhaps on the Israeli side a will not to increase this tension."

Dr. Ely Karmon with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya said that he was "very puzzled, not only by the decision but also the openness and the details that were published about the reasons to postpone it."

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