US, Israel sign secret pact to tackle Iran nuclear and missile threat

 
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FILE - In this Tuesday, May 23, 2017 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US President Donald Trump shake hands at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

Tel Aviv, Dec. 29 (TNS): Israel and the United States secretly signed a far-reaching joint memorandum of understanding providing for full cooperation to deal with Iran’s nuclear drive, its missile programs and its other threatening activities, an Israeli TV report said.

The document was signed on December 12 at the White House, culminating intensive talks between representatives of the major Israeli and American intelligence and defense hierarchies, headed by the US and Israeli national security advisers, H. R. McMaster and Meir Ben-Shabbat, respectively, Times of Israel quoting local channel reported.

Citing both American and Israeli officials, the report said the document was designed to translate into “steps on the ground” the positions set out by US President Donald Trump in his October 13 speech on Iran, in which he decertified the Iran nuclear deal.

At what the TV report described as a “secret” meeting at the White House, the US and Israel set out a joint agreement on strategy and policy regarding Iran. Specifically, they agreed to set up joint teams to handle various aspects of the Iranian threat.

One such joint team, the report said, will deal with Iranian activity in Syria and Tehran’s support for the Hezbollah organization.

Another joint team will deal with both diplomatic and intelligence activities designed to grapple with Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

A third joint team, it was reportedly agreed, would grapple with Iran’s ballistic missile program and its efforts to build accurate missile systems in Syria and Lebanon.

Finally, a fourth team would oversee preparation for any escalation by Iran and/or Hezbollah.

McMaster and Ben-Shabbat signed the joint document, the TV report said, quoting a “senior US government” source and “senior Israeli officials.”

Quoting the Israeli officials, Channel 10 said that the meeting confirmed that the US and Israel “see eye to eye on the trends and processes in the region,” and have now reached agreement on the strategy and policy required to deal with them.

“With all due respect to President Trump’s [December 6] declaration on Jerusalem [as the capital of Israel]” Channel 10 reporter Barak Ravid said, the December 12 “dramatic understandings” would have “a far greater impact on the security of Israel’s citizens.”

In a speech on October 13, Trump announced he would not recertify the Iranian nuclear deal, and outlined a new, tougher approach toward Tehran.

Trump said he was launching the new strategy to check Iran’s “fanatical regime” and warned that 2015’s landmark international nuclear deal could be terminated at any time.

Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the accord, but “decertified” his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of Congress.

“We cannot and will not make this certification,” he said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

In addition, outlining the results of a review of efforts to counter “aggression” by Tehran and its proxies in a series of Middle East conflicts, Trump ordered tougher sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and on its ballistic missile program.

Trump said the agreement, which defenders say was only ever meant to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, had failed to address Iranian subversion in the region and its illegal missile program.

The US president said he supported efforts in Congress to work on new measures to address those threats without immediately torpedoing the broader deal.