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U.S. Military Chief Arrives in Israel to Oversee 'Largest-Ever' Joint Military Exercises

“This joint exercise validated that we can work together”

Gen. Martin Dempsey (AP File Photo)

(TheBlaze/AP) -- The American military chief has arrived in Israel to observe the largest-ever armed forces drill between the two countries, the Associated Press reports.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was meeting Sunday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the beginning of his visit, and will be meeting with his Israeli counterpart and the country's president before he leaves.

Dempsey plans to oversee elements of Austere Challenge 2012, an air defense drill that includes more than 3,500 Americans and 1,000 Israelis.  They are practicing their ability to work together against a range of threats facing Israel.

Significantly, the joint exercise tests multiple Israeli and American air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets from places as far away as Iran, which is one of Israel's gravest threats at the moment.

"The security relationship between the US and Israel is deeper and stronger than it has been in recent years,” Ehud Barak remarked after his meeting with Dempsey.

The Times of Israel notes, however, that Dempsey has spoken out against a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran.  Back in August, the U.K. Guardian quoted the man as saying such a strike would "delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear program," and that he doesn't want to be "complicit" in such a strike.

However, when news of the exercise was first announced, many speculated the drills were either directly or indirectly designed to "send a message" to the Iranians, and possibly prepare for an actual attack.

Either way, 26-year-old Sgt. Gary Sabby, an American who went to Israel for the drills, concluded that “If something ever did happen, we could come together.”  23-year-old specialist Brandon Maroney agreed, adding: “This joint exercise validated that we can work together.”

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