Barak to meet Panetta, other key US officials, over Iran

In 2010, US defense secretary visited Israel, warned against Iran attack; during US visit, Barak set to discuss stalemate with Turkey, PA UN bid.

Barak speech serious 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool )
Barak speech serious 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool )
Defense Minister Ehud Barak flew to the United States on Wednesday for meetings with top Obama administration officials regarding Iran, the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East, and as part of an effort to seek a resolution to Israel’s current standoff with Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.
Barak will meet on Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and hold his first work meeting with newly-appointed Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who took up his post earlier this month. On Friday, he will fly to New York and meet with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
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Defense officials said that Barak will bring up the ongoing stalemate with Turkey over Israel’s reluctance to apologize for last year’s operation which stopped the Mavi Marmara, as well as possible ways to stop the Palestinian Authority from moving forward with its plans to unilaterally declare statehood at the UN General Assembly in September.
Barak’s meeting with Panetta will be the first time the two meet since the former CIA director took up his new post on July 1. As head of the CIA, Panetta worked closely with Israeli intelligence and made an unannounced visit to Israel in early 2010, during which he reportedly warned the government against attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
While Barak is considered more of a hawk when it comes to Iran, officials close to the Israeli defense minister have made an effort to downplay the seeming discord between Israel and the US regarding the Iranian nuclear threat. Nevertheless, Israel and the US are still believed to be at odds over the central question of whether Iran is currently pursuing a nuclear weapon, or has yet to make the decision to manufacture the bomb.
Last week, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former CIA veteran Fred Fleitz, who read the US’s updated and classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, claimed that it did not change the assessment of the controversial NIE from 2007, which claimed that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not started it since.
“It is unacceptable that Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists,” Fleitz wrote. “One can’t underestimate the dangers posed to our country by a US intelligence community that is unable to provide timely and objective analysis of such major threats to US national security – or to make appropriate adjustments when it is proven wrong.”