DM Barak and US Sec. Def. Gates, Nov. 2007
DM Barak and US Sec. Def. Gates, Nov. 2007Photo: US Defense Dept., US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison

In meetings with senior officials in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of the growing threat posed by Iranian power projection. In Lebanon, Barak said, the Iran-backed Hizbullah terrorist

Barak and Gates reportedly exchanged views on the challenges facing Israel and the free world emanating from the Middle East.

organization has more than doubled its missile arsenal in the last two years.

In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Defense Minister Barak warned his American colleague, "Iran's plan to enhance its strength endangers the stability of the region and of the entire world. We insist that the pace of economic and financial sanctions on the Iranians continue to be increased." As was made clear by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in his meetings with U.S. officials last week, Barak repeated the mantra that "no single option should be taken off the table" when it comes to blocking Iran's nuclear weapons program.

During the meeting, which was their third in one year, Barak and Gates also discussed a range of topics of mutual interest. Among these were the deteriorating situation in Gaza, developments on the Syrian front, the ongoing violations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 regarding the deployment of UN troops in southern Lebanon, and bilateral defense issues. The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, also took part in the meeting. In a private discussion following their formal meeting, which included other Israeli and U.S. defense officials, Barak and Gates reportedly exchanged views on the challenges facing Israel and the free world emanating from the Middle East.

In a later meeting with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Minister Barak reiterated his views on the security issues Israel is currently facing and their impact on the region and on the U.S.

Regarding the Hizbullah presence in Lebanon, Barak told the Vice President, "To our disappointment, we have seen that over the past two years the number of missiles in the hands of Hizbullah has doubled, if not tripled, and that the range of the missiles has been extended. And this has been accomplished with the close assistance of the Syrians." The Defense Minister further warned that the delicate balance of power in Lebanon is on the verge of being violated, which Israel would see as a real and serious threat.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Barak is slated to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI).