America's Top Military Chief to Visit Israel Next Week
The top US military officer is scheduled to arrive in Israel and Jordan next week, in a visit which will focus in part on Iran and the war in Syria, the US military said Wednesday.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet in Israel with his counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, to discuss advances in Iran's nuclear program, which Israel regards as an existential threat, given the Islamic regime's declared ambition of destroying the Jewish State, and continued support for anti-Israel terrorist groups.
"In Israel, the chairman expects to discuss the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel's security, including potential threats from Iran, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and uncertainty in the Sinai," his office said in a statement.
While in Jordan, he plans to visit US troops and get a better feel for how the conflict in Syria is affecting Jordan and the region, it said.
The exact dates of the visit were not disclosed but his office said he would leave Washington over the weekend.
Dempsey's visit comes just days after the inauguration of Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani, who has called for "serious" talks on Iran's nuclear program without delay.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed the United States to step up pressure on Tehran, warning that otherwise it "will go all the way" and develop nuclear weapons.
Both the United States and Israel have refused to rule out a resort to military action to prevent Iran from developing a weapons capability.
Instability in the Sinai is also expected to figure in Dempsey's talks in Israel. Attacks by Islamist terrorists have increased there since the overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.
Al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula is being increasingly seen as a growing threat to US interests. On Wednesday, unnamed intelligence officials told The Daily Beast that the terrorist network's Sinai-based affiliates are being drawn further into the group's inner circle, and claimed it was the threat from that branch specifically which prompted the closure of the America's embassy in Tel Aviv.
In Syria, the US administration promised in June to increase military aid to the rebels, after accusing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons.
Dempsey, however, has been reticent about deepening the US military involvement in the conflict, and since March 2011 Washington has limited itself to non-lethal support for the rebels and humanitarian aid.
Fearing the Syrian conflict could spill over into Jordan, the United States has deployed F-16 fighters and Patriot missile defenses, along with about 1,000 US troops, to protect its close Mideast ally.