The U.S. and Israeli navies taking part in 'Reliant Mermaid,' August 15, 2012.
The U.S. and Israeli navies taking part in the joint exercise 'Reliant Mermaid,' August 15, 2012. Photo by U.S. Navy
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The U.S. and Israeli navies conducted a joint search-and-rescue exercise in the Mediterranean Sea last week. The four-day exercise, known as Reliant Mermaid, included the use of live fire, and the U.S. participants included Aegis guided-missile destroyers of the type that would in theory be used to help defend Israel against Iranian missiles. But the exercise didn't include any missile interceptions - though such interceptions are supposed to be part of a bigger joint exercise in another two months.

The U.S. Navy took pains to stress that the exercise bore no connection to the recent verbal escalation between Israel and Iran. "Reliant Mermaid is a regularly scheduled exercise and is not associated with, or a reaction to any real world events," it said in a press statement.

Though the exercise is supposed to take place annually, this is actually the first time it has taken place in three years. For the first 10 years, through 2009, it was a tripartite exercise that included Turkey. But Turkish-Israeli relations hit a new low following Israel's raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza in May 2010, and since then, Turkey has refused to participate in any joint exercise with Israel.