IDF head to hold Iran, Syria talks in US

Visit is Ashkenazi's 1st to US as chief of staff; talks will also focus on Hizbullah, Hamas military build-up.

ashkenazi new 248 88 (photo credit: IDF)
ashkenazi new 248 88
(photo credit: IDF)
Less than a month after meeting the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff in Israel, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi left for the United States Saturday night for a week of talks - with a focus on Iran - with top US defense and diplomatic officials. The visit is Ashkenazi's first to the US as chief of General Staff and comes following two visits Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen has made to Israel in the past seven months. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to visit the US at the beginning of August. During his week-long visit, Ashkenazi will meet with Mullen, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and top members of the Senate Arms Committee. He will also meet with senior US intelligence officials. As a sign of the friendship the two military chiefs have developed over the past year, Mullen will host Ashkenazi and his wife Ronit for a private dinner at his house in the Washington, DC area. When Mullen was here three weeks ago, Ashkenazi and his wife hosted him for a private dinner at their Kfar Saba apartment. Ashkenazi will be accompanied during the trip by IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu and IDF Strategic and Foreign Liaison Department head Brig.-Gen. Yossi Heiman. The talks, officials said, would focus on a wide range of regional issues, including Hizbullah and Hamas's military buildup, Syria's continued support of terrorism and the Iranian nuclear program, which would top the agenda. The officials said that the main purpose behind the trip was exchanging views on the different issues and maintaining relations with the US, Israel's strongest ally. Ashkenazi will also discuss different means that Israel has developed to counter roadside bombs - known in the US as improvised explosive devices (IED) - which is one of the greatest threats to American troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The purpose is to continue to create and maintain the deep military-level dialogue with the US," a senior official said. Ashkenazi will also meet with top American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) officials in Washington, and representatives of the Friends of the IDF in Miami. He will also visit Centcom headquarters in Tampa, and meet with senior members of the American media.