The head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff has traveled to Israel for meetings with high-level officials and to supervise a major bilateral military exercise, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.
Gen. Martin Dempsey conducted talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday. He was also due for meetings with his Israeli opposite and President Shimon Peres.
Dempsey intends to watch over elements of the Austere Challenge 2012 exercise, in which thousands of U.S. and Israeli military personnel are testing their capacity to jointly counter missiles and rockets that might be fired by Iran or other foes.
The maneuvers were set to incorporate Arrow missile interceptor equipment as well as sophisticated Patriot antimissile technology; a U.S. Aegis warship was slated to provide command support, according to previous reporting.
The general on Thursday asserted that the exercise is not a direct warning to Iran, which is bolstering its ballistic missile capabilities as it furthers work on an atomic program that Tel Aviv and Washington fear is intended to produce a nuclear-weapon capability, The Hill reported.
"First of all, this is an annual exercise. Secondly, it's an exercise not only for the kind of capabilities that Iran might deploy, but also for shorter range rockets and missiles," Dempsey said to journalists. He added that the drill is intended "to demonstrate our commitment to Israel for their collected defense against ballistic missile attack, rockets and missiles" from any location.