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Top US general visits Israel amid increasing tensions with Iran

The Pentagon’s top-ranking officer, Gen. Mark Milley, landed in Israel on Friday to coordinate with senior military officials on Iran strategy.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley arrives to hold a press conference after a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group during a two-day meeting of the alliance's Defence Ministers at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on February 14, 2023.  (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top-ranking officer, Gen. Mark Milley, landed in Israel on Friday to coordinate with senior military officials on Iran strategy.

Milley, who serves as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with the Israeli military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss “opportunities for increased bilateral cooperation, coordination to defend against threats posed by Iran across the region and other items of mutual strategic interest,” according to a Pentagon statement.

Milley's four-year term is set to end in September. 

"Ongoing cooperation is required in order to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Milley, the Israeli government said. 

Why it matters: Milley’s diplomatic stopover comes amid a slew of meetings with US-aligned defense chiefs in Europe and ahead of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s tour of the Middle East next week, with planned stops in Jordan, Israel and Egypt announced thus far.

Pentagon officials are seeking to coordinate with Israeli and Arab counterparts on regional strategy while reassuring them of Washington’s commitment to its partnerships in the region.

The visits come amid increased tensions with Iran following revelations that UN investigators discovered trace elements of uranium enriched to nearly 84%, just shy of weapons-grade levels.

The Pentagon’s top policy chief, Colin Kahl, told House lawmakers earlier this week that Iran could potentially enrich enough material to use in a nuclear weapon in about 12 days. CIA director Bill Burns said last week that US intelligence believes Iran’s government has not yet decided to produce a nuclear weapon.

What’s next: Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi are expected in Washington early next week, Axios reported.

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