U.S. Discusses State of Middle East With Israeli Leaders: Jim Garamone

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff finished two days of meetings with U.S. and Israeli defense leaders on Friday.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. met with Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of the Israeli Defense Forces, and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

“They have a unique perspective on the region — a unique perspective on the challenges we have in Syria, in particular,” Dunford said during an interview.

The chairman also wanted to hear about Exercise Juniper Cobra, a major U.S. European Command exercise that included 1,700 U.S. service members. The ballistic missile defense exercise used computer simulations to train U.S. and Israeli military personnel. The exercise has been held every other year since 2001, Eucom officials said.


The exercise “was to demonstrate interoperability, if not true integration,” Dunford said. “The feedback I had from the joint task force commander, [Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy M. Ray], … and the rest of the team is they felt pretty good about where they are.”

Dunford also discussed the situation in Iran. “There’s a message that … somehow the moderates have come out on top,” he said. “We discussed what does it really mean to be a moderate [in Iran], and how might this affect Iran’s behavior.  And I don’t think anybody’s ready to draw any real conclusions about that.”

All of the candidates in the Iranian election were chosen by the current regime, the chairman noted. “So it would be hard to imagine that there’d be many candidates whose position was so wildly inconsistent with the current regime that they’d be elected,” he added.


At the broader military-to-military level, the general discussed the way the threat is morphing in the region. Hezbollah is developing, and that worries many in the region. Hezbollah started as a terror organization, moved into guerrilla warfare, and “there’s now elements of increasingly sophisticated hybrid capability for Hezbollah, which obviously causes all of us to take a look at our own capabilities and capacities to deal with the challenge,” Dunford said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is operating in the triangle of land inside Syria bounded by the triangle of land between Jordan, Syria and Israel. There is a presence of the terror group, Dunford said, but it has not aimed itself at Israel yet.

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