U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Visit Israel to Address Iran-Associated Threats

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to embark on a two-day visit to Israel next Wednesday, two Israeli and U.S. officials told Axios.[0] Austin's trip will put the focus on the full constellation of Iran-associated threats, including the country's arming, training and funding of violent proxy groups, aggression at sea, cyber threats, its ballistic missile program and drone attacks.

Austin began his trip in Jordan, where he met with King Abdullah II on Sunday to discuss regional security cooperation and initiatives to strengthen the bilateral security relationship.[1] The Secretary of Defense reaffirmed the U.S.'s commitment to Jordan's security and thanked the King for his leadership.[2] He also emphasized the U.S. commitment to the security and stability of the region.[3]

In Israel, Austin is expected to raise his concerns about the surge in violence in the West Bank, which has alarmed Jordan and Arab leaders, and discuss diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions ahead of Muslim and Jewish religious holidays.[4] He will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and President Isaac Herzog.[5]

The Secretary of Defense’s visit is part of the Biden administration’s diplomatic engagement with Israel’s new government, and it comes amid reports that Netanyahu instructed the heads of Israel’s security establishment to significantly increase readiness for an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.[5]

The U.S. is also deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Affairs, Dr. Colin Kahl, noting earlier this week that Iran now only needs 12 days to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium to build one nuclear bomb.[6]

0. “US defense secretary in Jordan at start of Middle East tour” The Jerusalem Post, 5 Mar. 2023, https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/article-733407

1. “On Middle East Tour, Austin Talks Partnerships With Jordanian King” Department of Defense, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3320340/on-middle-east-tour-austin-talks-partnerships-with-jordanian-king

2. “US Committed To Strategic Partnership With Jordan', Says To…” MENAFN.COM, 7 Mar. 2023, https://menafn.com/1105719513/US-Committed-To-Strategic-Partnership-With-Jordan-Says-Top-Defense-Department-Official

3. “US Defense Secretary meets King Abdullah II of Jordan” Mirage News, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.miragenews.com/us-defense-secretary-meets-king-abdullah-ii-of-960494/

4. “Pentagon head on unannounced Iraq trip ahead of 20th anniversary of invasion” La Prensa Latina, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.laprensalatina.com/pentagon-head-on-unannounced-iraq-trip-ahead-of-20th-anniversary-of-invasion/

5. “US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to visit Israel” JNS.org, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.jns.org/us-defense-secretary-lloyd-austin-to-visit-israel

6. “Austin to Visit Israel Next Wednesday | Sada Elbalad” See, 2 Mar. 2023, https://see.news/austin-to-visit-israel-next-wednesday

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