Ashkenazi to focus on Iran in US visit

IDF chief to meet with NSA adviser Jones, Clinton aide Ross; officials to discuss Joint Strike Fighter jet.

ahmadinejad salutes 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad salutes 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran will be the focus of talks IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi is to hold in Washington this weekend as he meets with top American military commanders regarding regional and global threats. Ashkenazi, who left late Thursday night, will meet with National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, a meeting Israeli officials said was of extreme importance due to the important role Jones plays in the Obama administration as far as setting policy vis á vis Israel and the Palestinians. Ashkenazi will also hold intelligence consultations and will meet with Dennis Ross, who was recently appointed a special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Iran. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will be out of town during Ashkenazi's visit. Instead, the IDF chief will meet with top Navy, Air Force and Army commanders. During his visit, Ashkenazi will be accompanied by IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu and Israel's Military Attache in Washington Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz. This is Ashkenazi's second visit to the US as chief of staff. In addition to holding talks at the Pentagon, Ashkenazi will also attend a Friends of the IDF dinner next week in New York City. Defense officials said that Ashkenazi's US visit came at a critical time and would be the first formal exchange of ideas since the Obama administration took office in January. While Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held the same positions under former president George W. Bush, it was important, the sources said, for the IDF to bolster its ties under the new administration as well. One topic that will feature prominently on Ashkenazi's agenda will be the Iranian nuclear threat. Earlier this week, Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the cabinet that Iran had crossed the technological threshold needed to develop a nuclear weapon. Last week, Mullen said in an interview that Iran had obtained enough fissionable material to develop a single weapon. "It is important that Israel and the US see eye-to-eye on this threat," another official explained. "These talks will be aimed at ensuring that is the case." Another topic that will come up is Israel's request to insert indigenous technology in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fifth-generation stealth fighter jet that the IAF intends to purchase in the coming year. The Pentagon has so far rejected a request to allow Israel to install its self-developed electronic warfare and radar systems. On Thursday, Ashkenazi met with Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss the defense budget. The IDF would like the Treasury to commit to the Brodet Commission's conclusions, which were to establish a multi-year spending plan that will grow annually over the next decade. Ashkenazi and Netanyahu also discussed the continued US foreign military aid to the IDF.