Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warmly welcomed his US Counterpart James Mattis on Friday as the first Cabinet Secretary of the Trump administration to visit Israel saying that he hopes to see more sanctions placed on Iran.
“There is no doubt that main problem for us and around the world is the axis of evil from North Korea to Tehran to Damascus to Hezbollah in Beirut. No doubt that the main link in this chain is Iran which is trying to undermine stability in all the Middle East, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and of course against Israel through their proxies.”
According to Liberman, while Israel “is not in a position to give any advice to the United States” on whether or not Iran is complying with the nuclear deal signed in July of 2015, Jerusalem is happy to see the new administration under President Donald Trump carrying out a policy review.
The administration which has just finished its first 100 days has taken a “completely new approach” to countries such as North Korea, Syria and Iran, Liberman said, adding that “there is a clear message to the Iranian regime and we are very satisfied.”
While Israel is “patient” to wait for concrete steps, it is nonetheless clear that Iran remains the biggest sponsor of world terror and the continuation of support to create more proxies and more militias is a major concern for both the United States and Israel.
“It is crucial to place more pressure and more sanctions on the Iranian regime.”
Mattis, who is on his first official visit as Pentagon Chief said that Iran seems to be complying with the JCPOA but Washington recognizes the need to confront the “destabilizing activities of Iran which continues to threaten Israel and its neighbors the region with ballistic missile through its maritime and cyber activities as well as through its proxies and surrogates such as Lebanese Hezbollah, a terrorist organization working to keep Assad in power in Syria.”
Echoing statements made by senior IDF officials that the Assad regime in Syria still has residual amounts of chemical weapons such as Sarin gas, Liberman said that while he “hopes you don't think we will share our intelligence with you,” Jerusalem has information that has made it clear that “100% Assad used chemical weapons and we strongly support the American strikes in Syria” which sent a new message to the regime.
Mattis, who said that the Syrian regime has dispersed its aircraft warned the regime against further use of chemical weapons.
“The bottom line is that the Syrian regime has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that they have removed them all. The amount we won't get into right now because we don’t want to reveal how we are finding out.I can say authoritatively that they have retained some and they are ill-advised to any again. We made that very clear with our strike.”
The MOU signed between the two allies showcases Washington’s “absolute and unwavering commitment to Israel security and to its qualitative edge over Iran or other threats,” Mattis said.
Mattis seemed to be taking a different tone to his stance in 2013 when he called the situation between Israel and the Palestinians “unsustainable” and blamed the settlements for harming prospects for peace, warning that they could turn Israel into an apartheid state.
“I believe in Israel’s security. Whatever it takes to keep Israel secure is where we stand and where we will always stand as Americans,” he said.
“How Israel achieves its level of sustainable security is absolutely critical and it includes all the peoples here inside the borders of Israel or inside the Middle East. All these people have to work together to resolve it and it will have to be done in a way that looks out for the rights of all peoples.”