The United States is ready to "face the challenge on every level" concerning Iran's nuclear drive, Defense Minister Ehud Barak claimed on Thursday after meeting with the deputy U.S. military chief.
“We face a common challenge but the clock is ticking at a different pace for each of us,” AFP quoted Barak as having said after meeting the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld, for talks on Iran.
“We also have our differences; Israel keeps its sovereign right to act independently, and the U.S. understands this. However, there is no doubt about the U.S. readiness to face the challenge on every level,” Barak said, according to a statement from his ministry.
Earlier, a statement from Winnefeld's office said he was in Israel as part of a previously scheduled counterpart visit with IDF deputy chief of staff, Major General Yair Naveh.
“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,” the statement said.
Barak, in the statement released from his office, said talks with Winnefeld focused on "the situation in the region, and of course about the Iran issue."
He reiterated that “only Israel will take decisions regarding its future and security” in a reference to what plans it may have regarding Iran.
Barak added, “However, the U.S. is our most important ally. The intelligence cooperation and the military support are deep and exceptional in scope. I am sure that it will stay this way in any scenario that might happen in the future.”
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.
U.S.-Israel relations have been strained over an attack on Iran, which Israel seems to be encouraging but which the U.S. is rejecting for the time being.
Last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, appeared to warn Israel that it should not expect U.S. assistance if it chooses to attack Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Dempsey said an Israeli attack would "clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear program" and added, "I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it."
Channel 10 News reported on Wednesday that preparations are currently underway for a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
According to the report, Netanyahu and Obama will meet at the White House a day after Yom Kippur, when Netanyahu arrives in the U.S. to speak at the United Nations General Assembly.
It is believed that the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama will lead to Israel agreeing to postpone an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, for a period of several months to half a year.
Earlier this week Netanyahu said that the international community must set a “clear red line” in order to avoid a war over Iran's controversial nuclear program.
“This is a brutal regime that is racing ahead with its nuclear program because it doesn't see a clear red line from the international community,” Netanyahu said at a meeting with Israeli and U.S. servicemen wounded in conflict.
He added, “And it doesn't see the necessary resolve and determination from the international community. The greater the resolve and the clearer the red line, the less likely we'll have conflict.”