WASHINGTON – Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the US government to tighten the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. In a meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Monday at the Pentagon, Barak urged his counterpart to "keep all options on the table."
The meeting comes after repeated statements made in recent weeks by Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, against the notion of a possible US military operation against Iranian nuclear facilitates.
Admiral Mullen was present at part of the meeting between Barak and Gates. Gates and Mullen believe that the US must not involve itself in a third theater while still engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also in objection. Israel is primarily intent on obtaining logistical support from the US, which would allow the IDF to launch a solo operation if need be.
"Iran's plans pose a threat to regional and global stability," Barak said at the meeting, "we insist that it is vital to continue tightening the economic and financial sanctions imposed on the Iranians."
This is the third time Gates has met with Barak over the course of the last year. The two are longtime acquaintances who formed strong ties during Gates' tenure as director of the CIA, which overlapped with Barak's term as chief of military intelligence.
The meeting also touched on a series of other issues, including the situation in Gaza, Syria, Hizbullah and violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. In a statement released by the minister's office, it was confirmed that Barak also discussed bilateral matters pertaining to the defense establishments of both nations.
Barak's media advisor said that during their private meeting, Barak and Gates exchanged opinions "on regional topics, both political and defense related – as well as the core issues and the future challenges Israel and the free world face in the Middle East."
Barak's visit to the Pentagon was held without the usual honor cordon or other trappings of a typical ministerial visit to the Pentagon.
"He's come here several times, and we haven't done honor cordons before. He has a longstanding relationship with the secretary," Whitman said of Barak.
Twice with Rice
Barak is scheduled to meet with Secretary Rice twice on Tuesday. The initial meeting would likely center on the current negotiations with the Palestinian Authority while the Iranian threat will apparently be
broached at a private dinner scheduled for the evening.
In the afternoon Barak is also expected to meet with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, the two may also be joined by President George W. Bush.
The meetings with Rice come ahead of a scheduled three-way meeting between Rice, Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and lead Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qureia.
IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was also in Washington last week, at Adm. Mullen's invitation.
Ashkenazi met with Cheney and Hadley as well as various senior officials from Congress, the Senate and the Pentagon.