Israel, US concerned about Iran nukes

The two countries resume strategic dialogue after a three-year hiatus.

iran nuke plant 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
iran nuke plant 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
A joint statement released by Israel and the United States at the end of a series of bilateral strategic talks expressed concern over "Iran's irresponsible nuclear policy". The two countries resumed the strategic dialogue after a three-year hiatus caused by a confidence crisis between the two sides. The talks that were held Monday at the State Department in Washington focused on the Iranian nuclear threat and on other regional issues that touched upon the interests of both countries. Minister Tzahi Hanegbi and the Directors-General of both Foreign and Defense Ministries headed the Israeli delegation to the talks. The US delegation was headed by Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for political affairs. Hanegbi said that the renewal of the Israel-US dialogue increases the understanding with the US with respect to several regional issues. Israel Radio reported that the US delegation was expected to come to Israel in the beginning of 2006 to continue dicussion. Israel and the US declined to provide any information about the talks themselves. The strategic dialogue forum was formed in 2001 and was meant to meet annually and discuss strategic long-term issues that did not get enough attention in the routine course of relations between the two countries. These issues deal mainly with regional threats, shifts in global security issues and long-term planning. In the past, participants in the dialogue stressed its importance as a unique channel through which strategic issues could be discussed - without being overshadowed by immediate needs and changing political situations on the ground. However, in 2003 the US put the dialogue on hold and the talks did not take place in the following years. Leaks in the Israeli press concerning the contents of the talks with the US were at the core of the American discontent, since both sides had agreed to keep the dialogues confidential. After the leak issue was resolved, former minister Dan Meridor, known for his moderate views, was replaced by hardliner Uzi Landau as head of the Israel delegation and the US remained reluctant to resume the talks. Then came the Chinese affair - the clash between Israeli and American defense establishments over Israeli arms sales to China that severed almost all defense ties between the two nations. Monday's dialogue is seen by Israelis as a significant step forward and as a sign of renewed confidence between the two countries. It is also the only inter-agency joint forum, in which representatives of diplomatic, defense and intelligence establishments of both countries take part in the discussions.