- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Israel’s top defense official charged Monday that the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran has paved the way for Tehran to pursue dominance over the Middle East through the establishment of a “Shiite radical axis” with major hubs from Lebanon, to Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

“This axis is exploiting the deal now to gain hegemony,” Israeli Defense Minister H.E. Moshe Ya’alon said on a visit to Washington, adding that Israeli leaders are increasingly worried by the fact that the “regime in Tehran has become a central party in order to solve the problems of the Middle East.”

Iran is now poised to be the dominant power in Syria as international talks proceed on a deal to end that country’s five-year civil war, he warned.

“For sure they are hegemonic in Tehran. In a way they are hegemonic in Baghdad through the Shiite government [there]. They are hegemonic in Beirut regarding Hezbollah and now they are going to be hegemonic in Damascus,” Mr. Ya’alon said.

He voiced particularly frustration over Washington’s readiness to let Iran play a major role in the talks over Syria, which borders Israel along the disputed Golan Heights.



“To leave us with an Iranian-dominated Syria — we can’t agree with it,” Mr. Ya’alon told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars, saying the United Nations and the great powers need a “different grand strategy” to end the conflict.

It’s “wishful thinking,” Mr. Ya’alon said, to pursue a strategy in which Syrian President Bashar Assad or some other leader will ever lead a unified Syria again. “There is no way to unify Syria,” he said.

U.S. military aid to Israel

While Mr. Ya’alon claimed that Israel and the U.S. enjoy “superb” military-to-military relations, his visit comes amid ongoing friction between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The frosty relationship was marked by the White House’s anger last year when Mr. Netanyahu openly lobbied Congress against the nuclear deal with Iran, followed by the abrupt cancellation of a face-to-face meeting this month between the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden visited Israel last week, and Mr. Ya’alon’s visit to Washington this week is focused on the Netanyahu government’s push for a renewed military aid package from Washington.

The package, which guarantees Israel roughly $3.1 billion annually in American military aid, expires in 2018. The Jerusalem Post has reported that Israel wants that sum raised to between $4 billion and $5 billion annually, but that the U.S. only wants to raise the amount to $3.7 billion-a-year for ten years.

Mr. Ya’alon is slated to meet with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during his visit to Washington this week.

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