CIA head visits Israel to discuss Syria, Iran’s nuclear program

John Brennan met with Defense Minister Ya’alon; the Defense Ministry did not provide details of the meeting; Russian FM Lavrov says Russia plans to go ahead with sale of missile defense systems to Syria.

The new director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, visited Israel Thursday and met with senior members of the defense and intelligence establishment. Brennan’s meetings in Israel focused on the escalation of the civil war in Syria, and the international efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Brennan met with Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon on Thursday afternoon. The Defense Ministry did not provide details of the meeting.

The visit from the new CIA head comes two months after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Israel, and a month after visits by the new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the new U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Throughout each series of meetings with government representatives, Israeli officials emphasized that if necessary, Israel intends to act to stop the smuggling of advanced weapons, including chemical weapons, from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Earlier this week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Benny Gantz said in a public speech that Israel will act when its red lines are crossed in the northern arena.

At the end of April there were two air strikes in Syrian territory. These have been attributed to Israel, even though Israel has not officially admitted responsibility. The air strikes targeted shipments of Fateh-110 missiles in several sites in the Damascus area. Syria was an in-between stop for the missiles, which were being smuggled from Iran to Lebanon. These medium-range missiles had been fitted with improved navigation systems that considerably improve their accuracy.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that his country intends to sell Syria advanced anti-aircraft S-300 missiles, as it wants to honor its existing agreements with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. These remarks were made only a few days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speedy visit to Russia, where he tried to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease the sale of weapons to Syria

Meanwhile, Obama met in Washington on Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At a joint press conference, Obama said that he and his guest both agree that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go, and that the U.S. also reserves the option for military intervention in Syria.

By Haaretz


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