“The big threat to Israel” would be Hezbollah having a presence in Syria, which “would give Israel two fronts to deal with,” Dunford said.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces said he is pleased with the military-to-military relationship with close ally Israel after a visit to the country this week.
Israel is a close US partner, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters, adding that “coming here as a matter of routine is important.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot hosted Dunford, who also met with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Eizenkot awarded Dunford a Medal of Appreciation.
This is Dunford’s third visit to Israel as chairman.
He noted it was what he called a ‘typical day’ in the US-Israeli military relationship. At the same time he was meeting with Israeli leaders, American troops were training with the IDF, a US ship was putting into port in Haifa and the deputy commanders from US Special Operations Command, US European Command and US Central Command were holding meetings.
“There is always a lot of activity going on in the relationship,” the chairman said.
Dunford said he spoke to his Israeli hosts about several issues of mutual concern.
“We spoke today broadly about the region,” he said. “And clearly, the major concern is Iran’s influence in the region — their malign activities in the region, what’s happening with Iran in Iraq and Iran in Syria.”
Positive Prognosis on the Demise of ISIS
Dunford said he and his Israeli hosts also spoke about the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, and the presence of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the tri-border area of Israel, Syria and Jordan in the north.
Israel is pleased with the progress being made against ISIS, Dunford said. They believe the trend is in the right direction and can look forward to the group’s demise.
“Their concern is about the day after ISIS is defeated in Raqqa and the long-term political structure in Syria and the role that Iran would play in Syria and the region,” he said.
Iran and Its Proxies- the Biggest Threat
Dealing with the Iranian threat network was a big part of the conversation, Dunford said.
“The greatest challenge from Iran is the Iranian threat network,” the chairman noted, which he said includes the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Quds Force and the support they provide for Hezbollah.
“The big threat to Israel,” Dunford added, would be a Hezbollah presence in southern Syria, which “would give Israel two fronts to deal with.”
Lebanese Hezbollah now fields a conventional force armed with missiles, rockets, artillery, armored vehicles and tanks, the chairman explained.
Refugee flows from Syria into Jordan and Turkey are also a concern for Israel, Dunford said. Turkey now has about 2.2 million refugees and there are 1.2 million refugees in Jordan, with millions more displaced people inside Syria.
“We talked about that and how quickly we can return to some stability so people can return home,” Dunford said. “There is an argument to be made that an investment in Syria today would be less expensive than the flow of refugees over time.”
“The violence must be reduced in order to set the conditions on the ground that is conducive to moving toward a peace process in Syria through talks in Geneva, Switzerland,” Dumford said.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News