US army chief: I always try to see challenges from Israeli perspective

Haaretz – 27 June 2010
www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-army-chief-i-always-try-to-see-challenges-from-israeli-perspective-1.298612

Senior Israeli military officials, including Navy chief and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meet Mullen during his short visit to Israel

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said Sunday emphasized that the relationship between his army and the Israel Defense Forces, adding: “I always try to see the threats and the challenges from an Israeli perspective.”

“The leadership of [IDF] Chief of Staff [Gabi] Ashkenazi has made a positive difference in our relations, yet our challenges remain,” Mullen said, after meeting Ashkenazi on a surprise visit to Israel.

Mullen and Ashkenazi held two meetings, one personal and the other extended, during the prior’s short work visit.  “We discussed the threats and challenges facing us,” Ashkenazi said following the meeting. “I view Admiral Mullen as a true friend and partner.”

Senior military staff – including Ashkenazi’s deputy, Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz, Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, Strategic Planning Directorate head Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, Israel Navy commander-in-chief Eliezer Marom, and Military Attaché to Washington, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni – took part in the extended meeting to discuss military cooperation and mutual security challenges.

The meeting had also been expected to focus on the preparation by both Israel and the U.S. for the possibility of a nuclear capable Iran.

During Mullen’s meeting with Marom, the two were also expected to discuss last month’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship. In the raid, nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli navy commandos.

The IDF views Mullen as someone who is capable of effectively presenting Israel’s stance in Washington. Officials hope that Mullen will become convinced during his visit that Israel acted appropriately during the May 31 raid of the Mavi Marmara, and that Israel should be allowed to investigate the event independently, without U.S. interference.

Mullen also met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak during his visit. Mullen’s visit followed Barak’s recent trip to Washington and the annual strategic dialogue between Israel and the U.S. in Tel Aviv.

“Admiral Mullen is responsible for a very large area in the Middle East as part of his responsibility towards worldwide security,” said Barak. “We value his contribution to the security and stability of the area and to the close work relationship between the IDF and the Pentagon and the U.S. Military very much, and really are happy to see him here as someone who contributes a lot to the security of the entire area and the State of Israel.”

Mullen’s unplanned visit to Israel comes as an unscheduled stopover following a visit to Afghanistan. Mullen met with Afghan leaders in Kabul as well as the heads of the U.S. army and NATO in Afghanistan to brief them on the dismissal of the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal.

McChrystal was relieved of his command after he and his aides made disparaging comments about the U.S. administration in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. U.S. President Barack Obama has named General David Petraeus as his replacement.

Over the last year, the cooperation between the Israeli and American militaries has grown tremendously in a string of joint exercises and the constant exchange of intel. Ashkenazi and Mullen speak on a secure line connecting their respective offices every week, and meet somewhere in the world every several months. Mullen last visited Israel some two months ago, when he said at a press conference that an attack against Iran would be a last resort.


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