image My Wish Is your New Command. JCS Chairman Milley, IDF Chief Kochavi, Minister Gantz when EUCOM to CENTCOM shift was discussed. Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Israeli Ministry of Defense

Israel-US hold major defense talks

Regional shifts and Iran topped discussions Israeli leaders held with visiting-United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Four-Star General Mark Milley.

According to an Israeli government statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the top American military chief discussed regional threats, especially the Iranian aggression. They also discussed cooperation between the IDF and the US Armed Forces, and opportunities in the region.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also expressed gratitude to Gen. Milley for the cooperation that has expanded and deepened in recent years under the Trump administration and expressed his willingness to continue deepening the cooperation.

Israeli Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz discussed current defense challenges and recent developments in the region and reviewed the current operational state of affairs in his talks with Gen. Milley, joined by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

According to a Defense Minister statement, Gantz “highlighted the importance of continued pressure on the Iranian regime and pointed to the IDF’s military readiness to respond to any scenario of Iranian regional aggression or nuclear armament.”

The Israeli Defense Minister thanked Milley for the “U.S.’ commitment to Israel’s security and expressed his appreciation for the close collaboration between the Israeli and American militaries, which, he reiterated, is vital to the shared interests of the two countries, to the interests of their allies in the region, as well as to Israel’s qualitative, quantitative and technological edge.”

He further stated that the presence of US troops in the Middle East is an important component of regional security – which should be preserved.

“We will work in partnership to respond to any scenario on the Iranian front and work together, along with our allies, to confront our common threats, so as to protect stability in the Middle East,” underscored the Israeli Defense Chief.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Kochavi also thanked the top American military officer for his “steadfast relationship that has lasted throughout the years.”

“The close relationship between the IDF and the US military is of paramount importance at the strategic level and is reflected in operational and technological cooperation that reinforces the IDF’s strength in the Middle East every day,” said Kochavi.

After attending the final IDF candle lighting ceremony of the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah, Gen. Milley noted for his part, “I am proud to be with our great friend and ally, the modern Maccabees of the State of Israel. I take special pride to be here on the last night of Hanukkah when the light of the menorah burns most bright. It is fitting for a people and for a country that has spread so much light around this world.”

According to both the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit and the Israeli Ministry of Defense, subsequent meetings with the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff focused primarily on regional shifts and the importance of continued pressure on Iran.

Milley’s talks in Israel followed earlier meetings with Taliban officials in Qatar. He also made a brief stop at the United Arab Emirates to speak with Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

This visit comes on the heels of Washington’s massive arms sale to Abu Dhabi including 50 sophisticated F-35 Stealth Lightning ii aircraft and 18 Unmanned Aerial MQ9-B attack systems. The weapons package will significantly bolster the UAE’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) over its regional adversaries, the most notable of which is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The deal “is in recognition of our deepening relationship with the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against the heightened threats emanating from Iran,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper, noting that it was made possible through Washington’s brokering of the historic Abraham Accords that normalized Israel’s relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Asst. Secretary Cooper underscored that the shipment of sophisticated weaponry to the UAE does not deviate from Washington’s longstanding assurance to maintaining the Jewish State’s military superiority in the volatile Middle East. “The proposed sale will make the UAE even more capable and more interoperable with the United States and our partners in a manner that is fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment, ironclad commitment I may add, to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge,” he said.

Turning to sanctions the administration of President Donald Trump to sanction Turkey over its procurement of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the U.S. official said, “The United States made very clear Turkey at the highest levels and on numerous occasions that its purchase and pursuit of the S-400 system would endanger the security of U.S. military technology and personnel and provides substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector. This, to get even more granular about this, this is also in the framework of Russia’s access to Turkish armed forces and defense industry. Nevertheless, Turkey did decide to move ahead with procurement and the testing of the S-400 system. And this decision resulted in both Turkey’s suspension from the F-35 joint strike fighter program and now sanctions under CAATSA.”

In rejection of Turkish claims, Cooper emphasized that the NATO interoperable systems were made available to Turkey, which opted for the Russian systems instead. “Turkey procured and tested the S-400 despite the availability of the alternative. And that alternative, which many of you and I have discussed in the past, was the NATO interoperable systems that are available, particularly the PATRIOT battery system. This was made available to meet Turkey’s defense requirements.”

Despite protest from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the U.S. sanctions, the Director of Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency (SSB) Ismail Demire boasted that, they would not affect any existing agreements nor “create obstacles for any organizations except for those in the list.” He also stated that the Russian S-400 was “the most developed air defense system.”

In contrast to these claims of qualitative superiority, senior Western intelligence officials told TV7 that Ankara’s acquisition of the S-400s is to combat future attempts at coups which last occurred in 2016, as they have the capability to enable forces loyal to the ruling AK part to intercept renegade Turkish F-16s which the NATO interoperable systems lack.