U.S. Held Secret Meeting With Israeli, Arab Military Chiefs to Counter Iran Air Threat
Islam News – The U.S. convened a secret meeting of top military officials from Israel and Arab countries in March to explore how they could coordinate against Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities, according to officials from the U.S. and the region spoke to the Wall Street Journal.
The previously undisclosed talks, which were held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, marked the first time that such a range of ranking Israeli and Arab officers have met under U.S. military auspices to discuss how to defend against a common threat.
The meeting brought together the top military officers from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan and came as Israel and its neighbors are in the early stage of discussing potential military cooperation, the officials said.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also sent officers to the meeting. The U.S. was represented by Gen. Frank McKenzie, then the head of the U.S. Central Command.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command and top U.S. commander for the Middle East, handed off command of U.S. forces in the region to Gen. Erik Kurilla in April before retiring from the military.
The talks were enabled by several changes, including common fears of Iran, improved political ties signaled by the Abraham Accords and the Trump administration’s decision in January 2021 to expand Central Command’s area of coverage to include Israel.
Another factor driving expanding military cooperation has been Arab countries’ desire for access to Israeli air defense technology and weapons at a time when the U.S. is shifting its military priorities toward countering China and Russia.
Discussions among the Middle East nations about cooperating on air defense, however, have a long way to go and are still diplomatically sensitive.
In a statement, Col. Joe Buccino, a Central Command spokesman, didn’t acknowledge the Sharm El Sheikh meeting but said the command “maintains a firm commitment to increasing regional cooperation and developing integrated air and missile defense architecture to protect our force and our regional partners.” Iran “is the primary destabilizing factor across the Middle East,” he added.
Spokesmen for Israel and Arab countries—except the U.A.E.—declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment on the meeting. The U.A.E. didn’t comment on the talks, but addressed the issue of cooperation broadly.
“The U.A.E. is not party to any regional military alliance or cooperation targeting any specific country,” the government there said in a statement. “Furthermore, the U.A.E. is not aware of any formal discussions relating to any such regional military alliance.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal