Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, will arrive in
Israel next week for a series of important security talks with IDF Chief of
Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and Israeli leaders.
The precise nature of the
talks with Dempsey is unknown, but a number of top-priority issues can be
expected to dominate the discussions.
First on the agenda will almost
certainly be Iran, which is continuing to make progress in its nuclear program,
irrespective of the election of a new president.
Israel is concerned that
the international community may be taking its eye off the Iranian nuclear ball,
due to the moderate image of President Hassan Rouhani, described by Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and because of the
ongoing regional turmoil acting as a distraction.
Netanyahu has signaled
that Israel’s patience is running out, telling CBS last month that Jerusalem
will “not wait until it’s too late” to take military action if need be to curb
Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iran installed thousands of new-generation
centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its facilities in Natanz and Fordow, and,
according to the IAEA, has amassed 190 kilograms of medium-enriched uranium,
edging dangerously close to Netanyahu’s red line of 250 kilograms of enriched
Additionally, Iran is making good progress on its alternative
route to nuclear weapons, plutonium, via its heavy water reactor in
The Wall Street Journal quoted American and European officials
based at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna on Monday as noting with surprise the
remarkable progress made by Iran at Arak. The officials said that when the work
is complete, Arak could be used to produce two nuclear bombs a year, with the
first bomb complete by next summer.
Dempsey might use the visit to gauge
Israeli intentions, and possibly to try and convince Israel to refrain from
dramatic decisions in the near future, in order to give diplomacy with Rouhani a
The issue of Syria will likely form the second item on the
Israel is closely monitoring developments north of the border,
where thousands of foreign fighters have joined the ranks of al-Qaida-affiliated
Syrian rebel groups fighting with other rebels to topple Syrian President Bashar
Assad. Israel’s policy on Syria for the time being remains limited to the
prevention of the proliferation of strategic weapons from Syria to
Dempsey has been crystal clear on his opposition to US
involvement in Syria, arguing that it could empower radicals further, and risk
the security of chemical weapons in the Assad regime’s possession, while
dragging Washington into a regional conflict with unknown
His feelings on reports of alleged Israeli low signature
strikes to prevent the transfer of Iranian and Russian arms to Hezbollah are
unknown, though it is reasonable to expect that he will use the visit to
continue close coordination between the IDF and the US military on
Both Israel and the US seem to agree that containing the conflict
with minimum intervention is the best policy for the time being. But Israel may
not be able to stick to such a policy in the event of Assad’s fall, due to the
need to secure or destroy dangerous chemical arms and prevent jihadi elements
from taking control of them.
The military chiefs can also be expected to
discuss the situation in Egypt, where the army has ejected the Muslim
Brotherhood from power, but is struggling to stabilize the country.
jihadi terrorist bases in the Sinai Peninsula form an ongoing regional security
threat, and the radicals are intent on attacking the Egyptian military in Sinai
and launching cross-border attacks on Israel, in a bid to undermine the
Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Hezbollah’s heavy-handed intervention in
Syria, and its increasingly tenuous position in Lebanon should also feature in
Alongside these issues, close Israeli-US cooperation on
missile defense, as exemplified by the 2012 joint air defense exercise held in
Israel (named Austere Challenge 12 – the largest drill of its kind), will
probably be discussed.
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