JERUSALEM, April 30 — As Israel and Iran seem to be closer than ever to a head-on military confrontation, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo showed strong support to Israel in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
The main issue during the meeting between Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was Iran, both the nuclear deal and Iranian presence in Syria.
In statements made after the meeting, the top U.S. diplomat said his country remains “deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region.”
Netanyahu said Israel and the United States are “committed to stopping it (Iran) together.”
“The United States would support Israel in any confrontation with Iran,” said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on Israeli-U.S. relations at Bar-Ilan University. “(U.S. President Donald) Trump sees Iran as an enemy that has to be confronted.”
Hours after the two met, media reports coming out of Syria said tens of Iranians were killed in a military strike in the north of the country. There is speculation that Israel is behind the attack. Israeli officials have neither denied nor confirmed the claim.
Just recently an attack on a Syrian air force base that killed several Iranian officials was attributed to Israel. The T4 air base in Homs was believed to be the location from which Iran launched an armed drone that infiltrated into Israeli air space and was later downed by the country’s air defense systems.
Iran and Israel are archenemies. Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to destruct Israel.
Iranian nuclear aspirations have been of great concern to Israel and its strongest ally the Unites States.
Meanwhile, Israel believes that Iran is using the Syria issue as a means to get closer to its borders.
Thousands of Iranian fighters have been sent to Syria by Tehran in an attempt to help stabilize Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime after seven years of civil war in the country.
“Israel and Iran are on a collision path,” Gilboa told Xinhua. “Iran will continue to try to establish a base in Syria and Israel will continue to try to prevent that from happening.”
In a scenario in which tensions escalate further, Israel would most likely enjoy support from the United States.
“The U.S. is with Israel in this fight,” said Pompeo during his visit in Israel.
All eyes are currently looking at May 12, the deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran, after he claimed that Iran had not complied with the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers.
Netanyahu has been a sharp critic of the deal, saying it needs to be amended or scrapped.
The so-called sunset clauses which put an expiry date on restrictions imposed on Iran is not the only issue making Israel and others uncomfortable.
In addition, the nuclear deal does not address Iran’s long-range ballistic missiles which also pose a threat to the Jewish state.
“Israel wants at least amendments or a supplementary agreement that would assure Iranian compliance and also reduce missile experiments and Iranian aggressive behavior in the Middle East,” said Gilboa.
“So its position is to cancel the deal but I think Israel would be satisfied if there would be supplementary agreements,” he added.
The meeting between Netanyahu and Pompeo appeared to be warm. Testament to that was the body language the two displayed at the statements they made after – it was handshakes and hugs.
For the Israeli leader, it was not only the tough talk on Iran that brought a smile to his face but also the issue of the Palestinians, which was conveniently omitted from the agenda and only briefly mentioned once by the U.S. Secretary of State.
The controversial U.S. planned embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was scheduled two days after the May 12 deadline. Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been building up in recent weeks.
Tens of Palestinians have been killed in recent weeks in clashes with the Israeli military on the Gaza border.
The Trump administration is believed to be preparing a proposal for an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians which has yet to be presented to either side.
But the snub by Pompeo, who broke decades of tradition by not meeting any Palestinian officials during the current visit, made the U.S. position clear.
The Palestinians have been rejecting officials arriving in Israel since U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, but Pompeo reportedly did not attempt to ask for a meeting.
The United States see the current Palestinian attitude as counter-productive to their aims.
“If Iran is weakened and the U.S. becomes stronger as a result, this could change Palestinian issue. The Palestinians will have to re-think its position and then the United States will present its plan,” Gilboa said. – XINHUA