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Daily Israel Report

Barak, Panetta Hold 'Useful' Meeting in Washington

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meet in Washington, talk about Iran.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/1/2012, 6:12 AM

Barak and Panetta meet in Washington
Barak and Panetta meet in Washington
Reuters

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Washington on Wednesday, in a meeting that was described as “important and useful,” Bloomberg reported.

The two reportedly discussed Iran, Syria and the changes across the Middle East.

During his two-day visit in Washington, Barak also met Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon. President Shimon Peres has also arrived in the U.S. for a series of policy meetings, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will arrive next week and meet President Barack Obama at the White House on March 5.

Bloomberg reported that Barak described the meeting with Panetta as “long,” indicating “the close security ties between the U.S. and Israel.” He called the talks, which were also attended by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “important and useful.”

The meeting was held in the wake of tensions between the U.S. and Israel over how to deal with Iran. One U.S. official after another has called for additional time to let new, more severe sanctions have an impact, but Israeli leaders have warned publicly that time is running out for a military strike that could stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Earlier this week, a U.S. intelligence official said Israeli officials have made it clear they won’t warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

The official told The Associated Press that Israel said that if it eventually decides a strike on Iran is necessary, it would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel's potential attack.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted on Wednesday that the Obama administration is undertaking a campaign of "aggressive outreach" to ensure sanctions on Iran are enforced.

"We should recognize what has been accomplished with the sanctions Congress passed and we are aggressively implementing," Clinton told the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations. "Discussion hasn't gone anywhere, but pressure has been ratcheted up."

Panetta’s meeting with Barak on Wednesday was the fourth between the two since Panetta took the Cabinet post in July, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told Bloomberg in an e-mailed statement.

The statement said that the frequent encounters have enabled Panetta “to coordinate very closely with the Israelis on security issues, and we will continue to do so.”

Retired American General James E. Cartwright warned on Wednesday against an Israeli strike on Iran.

Cartwright told The New York Times such an attack would probably prompt Iranian-backed terrorist attacks, but only Israel would be targeted with missiles.