image Photo: CENTCOM

Gantz urges US to lead Mideast arms race against Iran

Israel and Arab countries that share its concerns over Iran should build up their military capabilities under the aegis of the United States, said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ahead of a visit to the region by US President Joe Biden.

By Erin Viner

Biden’s tour, slated for 13-16 July, will include stops in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia. While in Riyadh, state television reported that Biden will attend a summit with the leaders of the Arab Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Iran’s nuclear program and the so far fruitless international negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal are likely to top the agenda of Biden’s meetings. Speaking to reporters, President Biden stressed that while the core purpose of his trip is related to Israeli national security.

Citing Israel’s deepening security ties with the Gulf nations forged in the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords, as well as Egypt and Jordan with whom the Jewish State signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994 respectively, Minister Gantz said there have been ongoing efforts to expand such collaboration.

“In the face of Iranian belligerence … what is needed is not just cooperation, but also a regional force build-up, with American leadership, which would strengthen all parties involved,” he said, according to an official transcript of a speech he made.

“On this, we are working continually, for the sake of the security of Israel’s citizens,” said Jerusalem’s top defense official.

Saudi Arabia signaled its backing for the Abraham Accords under which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain normalized ties with Israel two years ago, although the kingdom has stopped short of formally recognizing the neighboring Jewish State.

Israel has participated in militarily drills – and expressed interest in expanding such activities -with its new Gulf partners, which have been more publicly reticent about such prospects.

Tensions between Iran and Israel are seemingly on the rise amid continued losses by the Islamic Republic as part of the “Shadow War” between the two sides.