(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
WASHINGTON – After a productive, if mellow, meeting between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month largely avoided a reiteration of the debate over Iran’s nuclear program, a visit by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon this week has occasioned the resurfacing of the issue.
In Washington for a series of meetings, Ya’alon on Wednesday noted the new set of challenges facing Israel now that the nuclear deal brokered last July is proceeding toward implementation.
“We are very worried about Iran’s presence in Syria,” Ya’alon said. “Iran’s Quds Force is currently the only source actively working in Syria to attack us, trying to smuggle weapons and run messengers.”
“The Iranian regime is perceived as one of the key sources of stability for the Middle East, but we would argue that it is the heart of the problem,” he continued. “This regime generates terrorism and undermines many of the regimes in the Middle East, and this is not good news for the region, not only for Israel. The Iranian terror network is active across the world, including in the US.”
Meeting with the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ya’alon was asked to outline the Obama administration’s proposed 10-year defense package – and to assess whether the Israeli government was satisfied with what had thus far been offered. The focus of the closed-door discussion, according to aides, was Iran.
“It is a challenging time for Israel, and today’s discussion was about the shared threats facing our close ally,” said House of Representatives member and committee chairman Ed Royce of California.
“The regime in Tehran calls for the destruction of Israel and funds terrorists stockpiling weapons on Israel’s doorstep.
It is critical that our ally has the tools and resources needed to confront their growing security threats.”
Ya’alon will address the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, an annual gathering examining the US-Israel relationship, on Friday. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, are also addressing the forum this weekend.