Move to include Israel in CENTCOM now makes sense after Israel signed peace accords with more Arab countries, says retired Army Maj. Gen. Mike Jones.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
In one of his final acts as his term in office comes to an end, President Donald Trump ordered that Israel be included in CENTCOM, the major U.S. military command for the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The expansion of the U.S. Central Command to include Israel is a last-minute reorganization that pro-Israel advocates have been pushing for in order to encourage strategic cooperation against Iran, American officials told the paper.
For decades Israel had been part of the U.S. military’s European Command, mostly due to the historical friction between Israel and the Arab countries who are also American allies in the region that CENTCOM covers.
That changed when the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed peace agreements with Israel, followed by Sudan and Morocco. CENTCOM maintains major U.S. military bases in both the UAE and Bahrain.
Th U.S. military was moving toward having CENTCOM play a bigger role in Israel, the armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes reported, noting that in 2018, now-retired Gen. Joseph Votel was the first CENTCOM chief to make an official visit to Israel, followed a year later by current CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie.
Israel and the UAE have already started defense coordination between the two countries, who both share the threat of an increasingly militant Iran that has threatened to destroy Israel and carry out attacks on Sunni Arab countries in the Gulf, including the UAE.
The move is the latest in a series of Trump administration policy changes before president-elect Joe Biden takes office next week, which include increased sanctions against Iran and the declaration of the Iran-backed Houthi rebel forces in Yemen as a terror organization.
One former commander of CENTCOM said there was good reason to move Israel into the sphere of its military command, where it becomes the 21st country in its field of operation along with Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan and Egypt.
“I think moving Israel to CENTCOM makes sense from a U.S. policy perspective in that many Israeli issues are tied to the other countries in CENTCOM’s AOR,” retired Army Maj. Gen. Mike Jones, who served at CENTCOM chief of staff in 2011 under then-commander James Mattis, told the Military Times.