Newly confirmed US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday met with visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in his first bilateral meeting with a foreign leader since taking the helm of the Pentagon last week.
The two defense chiefs discussed Syria, Iran and continued US support for Israel’s qualitative military edge and anti-missile defense systems, despite looming US budget cuts, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
On Syria, the two defense chiefs discussed “the need for the Syrian regime to maintain control over chemical and biological weapons” in that country and pledged to “continue U.S.-Israel contingency planning to counter that potential threat,” Little said.
On Iran, Secretary Hagel “reiterated that President Obama is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon with all options on the table,” Little said. “The United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that window is closing.”
Hagel and Barak have a long and constructive working relationship dating back over a decade, former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas wrote for Al-Monitor late last year, noting he had personally been present at three of their past working meetings.
“Barak was thoroughly impressed not only by Hagel's military background, but by his analysis, knowledge of the Middle East, and his understanding of Israel's security issues and predicaments,” Pinkas wrote. “The two consulted each other quite frequently on the eve of the Iraq war, in late 2002 and early 2003.”
(Top Photo: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel presents a crystal globe and shares a laugh with Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak after a meeting at the Pentagon March 5, 2013. DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo. Bottom photo: US Defense Secretary Hagel, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller, met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren. Defense Department photo.)