Barak heads to DC for Iran talks
US, Israel see unprecedented frequency of high-level talks as defense minister prepares to meet with Biden, Panetta; President and PM to follow Barak to Washington for meetings with Obama.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to leave for Washington on Monday for talks expected to center on Iran, as the frequency of senior- level US-Israeli meetings is at a pace not seen in years.
Barak will be followed to Washington later in the week by President Shimon Peres, who will address the annual AIPAC policy conference next Sunday, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who will speak to the conference the next day.
Both Peres and Netanyahu will meet President Barack Obama, with Peres doing so on Sunday, and Netanyahu on Monday.
The two men met on Friday to coordinate positions ahead of those meetings.
The Peres-Netanyahu meeting came a day after a Haaretz report, strongly denied by Peres, claimed that the president would tell Obama he was opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran.
Barak – who was in Washington just two months ago and who has since hosted Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff – is scheduled to meet Vice President Joe Biden; Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who was in Israel just last week; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said last week that the frequency of the visits, as well as the senior levels that were involved, was unprecedented.
“There is no other country in the world, relationship in the world, where senior leaders invest that kind of time to ensure that they have total coordination,” he said.
Barak is expected to be in the US for just over two days, returning on Thursday to brief Netanyahu before he leaves for North America.
Netanyahu is slated to leave Thursday evening for Ottawa, where he is set to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper before continuing on to Washington on Sunday.
Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that while the events in the region – including the “deplorable massacres that we see being perpetrated against innocent civilians in Syria” – would be among the topics discussed during his visit, there is no doubt that the “continued strengthening of Iran and its nuclear program” will be at the center of the talks.
Netanyahu said the newest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report released over the weekend provided further proof, to those still in need, that “Israel’s assessments were correct,” and that “Iran is continuing to make rapid progress in its nuclear program, without let-up, while defying and grossly ignoring the decisions of the international community.”
The IAEA issued a report on Friday saying Iran has increased its capacity to enrich uranium to 20 percent, while ignoring international demands not to do so.