Amidst changes, Mullen reaffirms US-Israeli strategic ties

Mullen says "alliance is something we both depend on"; Lieberman warns about "Iranization of region."

Mullen and Netanyahu (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Mullen and Netanyahu
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Adm. Michael Mullen, America’s top military officer, made it a point Monday to reaffirm the closeness of the US-Israeli strategic relationship, saying the alliance was “something we both depend on.”
Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said before meeting with President Shimon Peres that the strength of ties between the two countries was especially relevant at a time of enormous regional instability and change.
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In Israel to take part in the farewell ceremony for outgoing chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen Gabi Ashkenazi – something seen as a rare gesture – Mullen also met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Ashkenazi’s successor, Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz.
Following his meeting with Netanyahu, he indicated that their talks had focused on the situation in Egypt, which he said signified a “wave of change.”
“We live in very challenging times, and will stay focused on this and continue to work together from a military standpoint to reaffirm that relationship in these very difficult times,” he said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, said at a press conference in the Knesset Monday that even with all the regional instability, what worried him most – both as foreign minister and as a private citizen – was the “Iranization of the region.”
Lieberman said that following the breakdown of talks between the big powers and Iran in Istanbul in January, the Iranian issue had largely been pushed off the international agenda, even though Tehran continued to pursue its nuclear ambitions. He added that he had given a directive to the ministry to “do everything to bring Iran back to the center of the international discussion.”
Lieberman said he would make Iran the focus of talks scheduled Tuesday with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Jerusalem.
“Wherever there is instability, they penetrate,” he said of the Iranians. “When I look at the situation in Algeria, Tunisia and in the whole region, what bothers [me] is Iran.”
He refrained from specifically addressing the situation in Egypt.
Ashton will be coming to Israel from Tunisia on Tuesday as part of a regional tour that will also take her to the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Lebanon. Her visit comes in advance of another Quartet meeting, scheduled in March. In addition to Lieberman, she will also be meeting with Netanyahu.