(photo credit: AP)
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen wrapped up his lightning trip to Israel on Monday, leaving the IDF with a feeling that Israel does not stand alone in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat, despite a recent American intelligence report.
Mullen was met Monday morning by an honor guard at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv. He then sat down for meetings with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Throughout the day, Mullen received briefings from IDF brass, including OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin and OC Planning Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan.
Mullen also received a briefing from OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy on the recent Israeli air strike on what foreign reports say was a nuclear reactor in northern Syria. He also met with OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who will be leaving for Washington in the coming weeks to take up his new position as IDF military attachÃ© to the US.
Despite the recent National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran had frozen its nuclear military program, the US still perceived Iran as a major threat to the region, Mullen's spokesman said. He said Mullen was aware that the NIE report claimed Iran had tried to develop nuclear weapons in the past, was enriching uranium and was a key supporter of terrorist groups in the region.
Defense officials said they did not believe the briefings Mullen received would change America's stance on Iran, but they could help him understand the way Israel views the threat.
During their meetings, Mullen and Ashkenazi discussed the Iranian threat. Israel believes Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon and will be ready to manufacture such a device as early as the end of 2009.
Mullen and Ashkenazi also discussed the Hizbullah and Hamas threats.
Mullen briefed the IDF generals on ongoing American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The IDF is concerned of the consequences a premature US withdrawal from Iraq could have on the region. Nehushtan presented Mullen with the IDF's multiyear plan that, for the first time in a decade, includes ways for dealing with a potential threat from Iraq if the US pulls out prematurely.
Later in the day, Mullen met with Barak, and in a prepared statement, the Defense Ministry said they discussed a joint Israeli-US missile defense project.
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