US, Is­rael talk defence as Iran marches on Aleppo

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

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.

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