Number 2 US Military Chief in ‘Secret’ Talks with Barak
The vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld, met Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday, one week after U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was quoted alas saying that if Israel wants to attack Iran, "I don't want to be complicit” in it.
The U.S. Defense Department and the Israeli Defense Ministry admitted that Barak and Winnefeld met on Thursday and even provided pictures – but no details, AFP reported.
"The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is in Israel as part of a previously scheduled counterpart visit with Israeli Deputy Chief of the General Staff Major-General Yair Naveh," Winnefeld's office said in a statement out of Washington.
"While there, Admiral Winnefeld will participate in a series of discussions on mil-to-mil (military-to-military) cooperation and mutual defense issues impacting both Israel and the United States," it said.
The meeting had been secret until Army Radio exposed it earlier on Thursday, reporting that Winnefeld was in the country at the invitation of his counterpart, Naveh.
It was not immediately clear when Winnefeld arrived, but he was expected to leave later on Thursday.
Army Radio said the visit had been kept under wraps because of political sensitivities between Israel and Washington over how to handle Tehran's nuclear program, which both governments suspect is designed to build atomic weapons.
Next week, Lieutenant General Craig Franklin, currently the commander of the U.S. Third Air Force, reportedly will visit Israel in advance of a scaled-down joint military drill between the two armies next month.
The United States has cut approximately two-thirds the number of American troops who were supposed to participate, but officials maintain that the reduction has nothing to do with disagreements over how to respond to Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Israeli leaders have been flooding the media the past months with proclamations that the “window of opportunity” to strike Iran is rapidly closing, while a large number of military, political and public figures have adopted the Obama administration view against a strike before next year, at the earliest.