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Israel, U.S. Discuss Iran Threat

Israeli delegation at the White House, Tweeted by Jason Greenblatt, Trump's assistant and special representative
Israeli delegation at the White House, Tweeted by Jason Greenblatt, Trump's assistant and special representative

Israeli media has reported that a high-profile Israeli security delegation held talks with White House officials in Washington.

The Israeli delegation, including National Security Council Deputy Chief Eytan Ben-David and Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate Chief Major-General Herzi Halevi, was reportedly led by Yossi Cohen, the new head of the Mossad.

At the White House, they met with U.S. National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster and his deputy, as well as Middle East Special Peace Envoy Jason Greenblatt, on August 17.

“NSA LTG McMaster led the meeting from our side and we had a very productive discussion on our strong and continuing partnership,” Greenblatt tweeted on Thursday night.

“The dangers of [Iran] and its proxies’ continuous presence in Syria” and “ways of confronting Tehran and Lebanese Hezbollah’s influence in Syria” were among the main topics discussed during the meeting, according to the Israeli media reports, along with discussions of a cease-fire in Syria and Hezbollah’s “destabilizing” capability in the region.

“The Israeli delegation is going to ask President Donald Trump’s administration to take more decisive steps toward monitoring Tehran’s moves in the region,” the Israeli daily Hayom wrote.

Meanwhile, according to the Israeli website Vala, “The Israeli side presented its position on ceasefire in southern Syria,” while “the U.S. and Russia’s positions on the case have not changed, so far.”

A ceasefire in southern Syria, sponsored by Washington and Moscow, started several weeks ago and still holds.

Cohen told the Israeli security cabinet during a briefing on August 13 that “the areas where Daesh’s (an Arabic term for Islamic State) presence is decreasing, Iran is working to fill the vacuum.”

The Mossad head also told Israeli ministers that Tehran has not abandoned its ambition to develop nuclear weapons, and that the Obama-brokered nuclear deal -- the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), has “only reinforced that trend and strengthened the Islamic Republic’s aggression in the region.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last week that "Israel's policy is clear: We completely oppose Iran and its proxies, especially Hezbollah in Syria. We will do everything necessary to ensure Israel's security," the Israeli media network Arutz Sheva reported.

“Israel will continue to operate with determination and in a variety of ways in order to protect itself from those threats,” Netanyahu’s office asserted in its statement.

Israel’s Network TV 2 aired a report on August 15 showing that Tehran is allegedly constructing a missile plant near the city of Baniyas in Syria. Based on pictures taken by an Israeli satellite, the report claimed the Baniyas factory “resembles” a similar plant near Tehran.

Moreover, according to high-level Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials, Tehran has set up camp in Venezuela and expanded its influence in Yemen, through Houthis.

Iran has repeatedly dismissed these reports as unfounded while insisting its military advisers are in Syria at the request of Damascus.

Iran recently raised the budget for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force -- the IRGC branch that works abroad -- with $520 million devoted to taking on the U.S. military in the Middle East, reported Arutz Sheva.

Due to the sanctions relief that came as part of JCPOA, Iran now enjoys economic growth and is able to close attractive international contracts, including the purchase of civilian airplanes and military helicopters, according to Cohen, Arutz Sheva has concluded.