US, Israel talk defence as Iran marches on Aleppo
ISRAEL AND the US are trying to restore co-operation at the highest levels following months of tension over the Iran deal.
On Sunday, Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Israel for talks on future military aid to Israel and coordination over the two countries’ response to developments in Syria.
General Dunford met his Israeli counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon.
On the agenda were discussions on renewing the military aid package that the US gives Israel, currently worth around $3.1 billion annually. The 10-year agreements expire in 2017 and it is expected the US will include more advanced F-35 fighter jets and guided munitions in the new package, which is expected to be worth closer to $4 billion annually over the next decade.
Most of the money funds Israeli purchases from American arms manufacturers, but also the development and manufacture of Israeli defence systems, including Iron Dome.
The talks had been frozen for a few months while the Obama administration gathered support in Congress for the Iran deal. Now that the deal is going ahead, discussions are resuming.
The talks also focused on joint concerns over Russia’s deployment of dozens of fighter jets and helicopters in Syria, where they have been bombing groups opposed to the Assad regime.
Last weekend, the regime launched an offensive to recapture Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, from the rebels. A large proportion of the fighters are members of Iran’s proxy, Hizbollah, and for the first time, a large Iranian force is also operating on the ground. It is estimated to be a brigade-size group of around 2,000 Revolutionary Guard troops. They are being supported from the air by Russian bombers and attack helicopters.
Israel was the first Western country to establish a degree of military co-ordination with the Russians. The US, which was reported to have had at least one airborne confrontation with Russian jets in recent weeks, has since done the same.