WASHINGTON – IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was received Wednesday in a special Pentagon ceremony in his last US visit in uniform, highlighting his warm relationship with his American counterpart, Admiral Michael Mullen.
During meetings at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, Ashkenazi warned that for the first time in 60 years, the US is losing its foothold in the Middle East, as Iran and Turkey are joining forces to create a new agenda in the region. He added that Syria is boosting is activity within the radical axis.
Deep friendship, disagreements on Iran (Archive photo: Ofer Amram)
Ashkenazi also reiterated warnings that implicating Hezbollah in the assassination of late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri may prompt a shakeup that could lead Hassan Nasrallah to take power in Beirut.
Disagreements on Iran
In his meetings, scheduled to continue tomorrow, Army Chief Ashkenazi also stressed the importance of reinforcing the sanctions imposed on Tehran, while discussing the progress of Iran's nuclear program with his US counterpart.
"I think Iran is on a path to achieve nuclear capability and that that would be a disaster for the region, incredibly destabilizing," Mullen said. "Right now the focus is on dialogue and engagement and sanctions. The sanctions are actually taking a fairly significant bite, and that's the current path. We've all been pretty clear here that all options remain on the table, including military options."
The US military commander said that the sanctions are having a much quicker effect than expected, and that their influence is significant. Ashkenazi, however, was more skeptical, saying that it was not clear whether the sanctions are sufficient to convince Iran to change course.
"In any case, we appreciate the American effort," he said.
Admiral Mullen and his wife hosted Ashkenazi and his wife for a private dinner. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted that he knows many military commanders, yet none of them is a good friend like Ashkenazi. Mullen added that the military ties between Israel and the US deepened during his three years of cooperation with Ashkenazi.