Syria, Iran Highlight US-Israel Discussion

Violence in the region and the threat of a nuclear Iran were key topics in the semi-annual US-Israel Strategic Dialogue held on Thursday between US and Israeli officials. According to a joint statement released on the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the discussion was “productive” and “wide ranging.” The statement noted that “special attention was paid to the ongoing changes in the region, which present both challenges and opportunities for progress.”

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns headed the American delegation as part of a tour of the region. Burns may have taken the opportunity to update Israel on his meeting with new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, although that was not officially mentioned in the joint statement.

Two topics that were certainly covered were Iran’s nuclear program and the Syrian conflict.

The statement noted that the US and Israeli officials “addressed Iran’s continued quest to develop nuclear weapons, which the United States and Israel are both determined to prevent, the destabilizing role which it plays in the region and its promotion of international terrorism.” The same day as the meeting, the US also announced stepped-up sanctions on Iran in a separate statement.

As for Syria, the US is backing a British plan to impose United Nations sanctions if the Bashar al-Assad regime doesn’t adhere to international demands to quell the violence.

In their talk on Thursday, the joint statement said Israel and the US “agreed that the ongoing bloodshed inflicted on the Syrian population by the Assad regime, assisted by Iran and Hezbollah, is a source of major humanitarian concern and the continued violence of the Syrian regime against its citizens could also lead to severe consequences for the entire region.”

The Israeli delegation in the talks was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. While the Strategic Dialogue is the highest-level diplomatic meeting between the countries that’s scheduled on a regular basis, it won’t even be the highest-ranking meeting of the summer. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit the region and meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials in the near future.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, July 12, 2012)