Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman with his American counterpart Gen.James Mattis..
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
With the administration of US President Donald Trump forming a new policy towards the Middle East, Defense Secretary General James Mattis arrived in Israel Thursday afternoon to discuss regional security issues with top officials on Friday, with Iran topping the list.
Greeted by members of the American embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli army’s defense attaché in Washington, Gen. Mickey Edelstein, Mattis arrived from Cairo on his third leg of a 5 country Middle-East tour billed by the Pentagon to discuss to “defeat extremist terror organizations.”
Marking the first time he has visited the Jewish State as Pentagon chief, Mattis will be greeted by an official honor guard at army headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday morning before meeting with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. He is also set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.
With the nickname of “Mad-Dog Mattis,” he is no stranger to the Middle East, and is respected by the US military and administration alike for his knowledge and understanding of the region.
Enlisting in 1969, Mattis is a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf War where he served as Lt.Col, in the war in Afghanistan as a Colonel, until his promotion to brigadier general, and as a four-star general during the 2003 Iraq War where he played a major role in the battle for Fallujah. He finished his military career as the head of Central Command, which directs US military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis arrives in Iraq on an unannounced visit (credit: REUTERS)
Mattis and Liberman, who met in Washington in March have already discussed issues such as the ongoing civil war in Syria and the threats posed by Iran, and the Israeli Defense Minister will brief him against on the numerous threats to Israel in the region, including on its northern border where there is a growing presence of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria.
Liberman will be meeting with Mattis for the third time since he assumed his role as Defense Secretary in the Trump administration, told The Jerusalem Post
that Mattis “has a great amount of experience in this region and understands its complexities.”
Known as a hawk on issues related to Iran, last month in London Mattis recalled a statement he made in 2012 in which he stated that the three gravest threats to American national security were “Iran, Iran, Iran,” an echo of Liberman’s statement at the Munich Security Conference in February that main challenges facing the region were “Iran, Iran, Iran.”
“At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US central command and [saying] that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today,” Mattis said in March.
On Wednesday in Riyadh Mattis reiterated his belief that Iran was an instigator to conflicts in the region, telling reporters after meeting with senior Saudi officials that “everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran.”
After his visit to Israel, Mattis will head to Qatar which hosts the US military’s central Middle East air operations center at the Al Udeid Air Base and then to and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti which the US military uses to conduct drone missions over Somalia and Yemen.