Defense Minister Gantz to meet senior US officials in Aspen

Gantz will meet National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and CIA Chief William Burns on the sides of the Aspen Security Conference.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on June 3, 2021.  (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on June 3, 2021.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is in Colorado to meet with senior US officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William Burns, while participating at the Aspen Security Forum.

Gantz will also meet former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of defense Mark Esper, Rep. Ruben Gallego and Senator Joni Ernst.

During the meeting with Sullivan, Gantz is expected to discuss regional security challenges as well as updates about President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week.

Gantz and Sullivan's previous meeting

 FROM LEFT: US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, President Isaac Herzog and Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO) FROM LEFT: US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, President Isaac Herzog and Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Biden was in Riyadh following a visit to Israel, where he toured the country’s multi-layered air defense umbrella and received a classified briefing by the defense minister and other senior security officials. Although Sullivan joined Biden, he did not meet with Gantz.

The last time Gantz met with Sullivan was in May, when the two discussed the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear project. The meeting came less than a day after Sullivan and Austin met with Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid Bin Salman.

During the defense minister’s time at the Aspen Security Forum, he will participate in a “fireside chat” along with Abdulla Al Khalifa, undersecretary for Political Affairs, Bahrain, and Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of The Atlantic, about the changes in the Middle East two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords.

Since the signing in 2020, Israel has been working with regional countries and has increased its military-to-military ties and signed more than $3 billion worth of defense deals.

The defense minister’s meetings in Colorado come days after Gantz met with US Central Command Chief Gen. Michael Kurilla. The two spoke about regional challenges, primarily Iran and its destabilizing activities via proxies and the Islamic Republic’s maritime aggression.

The two also discussed “new opportunities to deepen military ties and to facilitate cooperation with regional partners,” said a statement released by Gantz’s office.

Middle East Air Defense

Gantz has been quite vocal about a regional Middle East Air Defense, saying that the program is already operative and has already enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries.

It is unclear what states in the region have joined, but Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir said in a recent paper that the campaign to thwart Iran’s regional plans is taking place across the Middle East with a “regional alliance” of the US, Israel, the Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait), Egypt and Jordan, as well as Qatar, Oman, Sudan and Morocco.