Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Israel, US tighten relations as part of Iran sanctions effort

(Ynet).Israel is strengthening its ties with the United States in light of the possibility that sanctions against Iran may be intensified. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who flew to the US on Tuesday, is slated to meet on Thursdaywith US administration officials in Washington to discuss imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic with them.

Also on Thursday, the strategic dialogue between Jerusalem and Washington, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, will be renewed.

It still remains unclear when and if the international community will impose additional sanctions against Tehran. However, the US and Israel, with the help of France and other European countries, are leading the trend pushing for increased sanctions.

The highest level talks are usually conducted via telephone or written correspondence, but the effort is being taken up a notch this week. Barak will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, and perhaps even Vice President Joe Biden.

The talks will focus on the Iranian nuclear threat, however another issue that will likely be raised is the indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The defense minister is expected to lean mainly on the most recent report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency that asserted that Iran is actively seeking nuclear warheads.

Barak will deliberate with Clinton and Gates regarding the manner in which the international community should be goaded into imposing sanctions on Tehran. In addition, he will speak with Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, about cooperation between the US and Israel as well as Iran's nuclear aspirations.

In Jerusalem, Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon will meet with senior officials from the Pentagon, the White House, and the National Security Council, and from the two countries' intelligence agencies. The talks will last a full day and are also slated to focus on Iran.

Scheduled to participate in the talks are head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau Amos Gilad, head of the National Security Council Uzi Arad, and Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal. A joint statement will be issued following the extended day of talks.