US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated his country’s ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. The reaffirmation came during Austin’s meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon on Thursday.
“The two leaders discussed the Administration’s commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and addressing Iran’s destabilizing actions throughout the region,” said a readout of the meeting released by the US Department of Defense.
Austin praised Gantz for “Israel’s deepening relationships with countries across the region and the increasing opportunities for military-to-military cooperation enabled by Israel’s transition into the US Central Command Area of Responsibility,” it added.
Moreover, the US Department of Defense confirmed that US forces won’t be partaking in the “Chariots of Fire” military drills conducted by Israel. However, it said that a few CENTCOM leaders will participate as observers.
Earlier this week, Israeli media reported that the US would take part in large-scale Israeli maneuvers to simulate a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, as part of its new exercise later this month.
According to the Israel-based online newspaper “Times of Israel,” US Air Force mid-air refueling jets will assist Israeli fighter jets in their drill simulating successive strikes against Iranian targets.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat under the conditions of anonymity, a Pentagon spokesperson refused to confirm the participation of some US aircraft in the maneuvers, saying that this matter was within the authority of the CENTCOM leadership to confirm or deny such participation.
The newly confirmed commander of US military forces in the Middle East, US Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, had arrived in Israel on Tuesday on his first official tour of the region since taking on his new role.
Kurilla met with Israel Defense Forces chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Gantz during the two-day visit.
For his part, Gantz met with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in the White House and thanked him for the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.
According to a readout issued by the Defense Ministry, the meeting between Gantz and Sullivan focused mainly on Iran’s progression in its nuclear program as negotiations stalled in Vienna, alongside Tehran’s “destabilizing regional activities.”