Israel's Strategic Importance Reaches New Level

US to deploy a record level of troops to Israel -- will their stay be permanent?

On January 19th 1991, during the first Gulf War, the United States sent Patriot Missiles and a contingent of U.S. service members into Israel on temporary assignment. This was the least we could have done for Israel as they vowed not to respond to Saddam’s SCUD attacks which reached deep inside Tel Aviv. Never have U.S. forces found a permanent home inside the Holy Land—until today.

Twenty years later, the United States committed to a permanent presence in Israel. According to Defense News, as of September 21st 2011, the United States deployed a high-powered, high-frequency, transportable X-band radar system to Israel along with a small contingent of support personnel. Designed to detect and track ballistic missiles soon after launch, the AN/TPY-2 Transportable Radar Surveillance/Forward Based X-band Transportable (FBX-T), its ancillary components, and some 120 EUCOM personnel are prepared to defeat any Iranian missile attack. Today, these service members make home at Israel's Nevatim Air Base.

In an attempt to comfort those who may feel alarmed by this news, rest assured that a U.S. military presence in Israel has been planned for some time now. In fact, since 2007, the U.S. Army solicited contractual opportunities for Israel’s Nevatim Air Base. Solicitation number W912GB-07-R-0013 was released in April 2007 specifically designed for the new construction of two aircraft hangars, hazardous material storage buildings, hangar annex buildings, a dining facility, a utility building, a boom treatment station, part washing and storage facilities, a laboratory and workshop building, as well as site development to include roads, parking, taxiways and landscaping.

In mid-December, Lt.Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the U.S.’s Third Air Force, based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the world’s largest missile defense exercise, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel.  Normally, after an exercise, everyone goes home. That is unlikely for our U.S. forces considering today’s Middle East crisis.

In the coming weeks, thousands of U.S. troops are expected to deploy to Israel, possibly putting Nevatim AFB to the test. They are reportedly bringing with them the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) and a fleet of naval components, which will include ship-based Aegis ballistic missile systems. The cost of this exercise would be in the billions.

With Iran beefing up its military might bolstering its defense in the Strait of Hormuz and recently threatening the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, not only are U.S. forces headed to Israel, some Israeli forces are forecast to take permanent residence in Stuttgart, Germany—home of United States European Command (EUCOM).

President Obama recently announced that a closure of the Strait of Hormuz was unacceptable and vowed to take whatever measures are necessary to keep the vital shipping lane open. While U.S. forces are expected to deploy to Israel for an “exercise,” could this deployment turn into something much more? Time will tell but considering President Obama’s harsh vow it’s not looking good.

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