Pompeo, Netanyahu Discuss Next Steps over Iran’s ‘Malign Influence’

Pompeo,Netanyahu
Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse

TEL AVIV – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday discussed Iran’s “malign influence” following the American airstrike in Iraq on the top Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani.

“Netanyahu and I just spoke and underscored the importance of countering Iran’s malign influence and threats to the region. I am always grateful for Israel’s steadfast support in defeating terrorism,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

“The bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable,” he added.

A statement from the State Department said the two leaders discussed Iraq as well as Iran’s “continued provocations and threats to the region.”

Netanyahu echoed Pompeo’s remarks Sunday, saying “Israel fully stands alongside the U.S. in the just struggle for security, peace and self-defense.”

The Israeli premier also hailed President Donald Trump’s “strong and quick action” in targeting Soleimani.

“Qasem Soleimani brought about the death of many American citizens and many other innocents in recent decades and at present. Soleimani initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and beyond,” Netanyahu said in his remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“President Trump is deserving of all esteem for taking determined, strong and quick action. I would like to reiterate – Israel fully stands alongside the US in the just struggle for security, peace and self-defense.”

According to Israeli media, Pompeo is said to have briefed Netanyahu about the U.S.’ plan to assassinate Soleimani ahead of time.

Prior to his departure for Athens on Thursday morning to sign the EastMed gas pipeline deal, Netanyahu said “very, very dramatic things” were imminent.

“We know that our region is stormy; very, very dramatic things are happening in it. We are alert and are monitoring the situation. We are in continuous contact with our great friend the US, including my conversation yesterday afternoon,” he told reporters from the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport.

He then cut short his visit to Greece fearing a retaliation by Iran.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Tehran will respond to the killing with “harsh revenge.”

General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, another commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, threatened that 35 U.S. targets in the Middle East, “including Tel Aviv,” were in Tehran’s crosshairs.

However, most Israeli analysts have said Iran is unlikely to target Israel. Nevertheless, the IDF has gone on high alert along the borders with the Gaza Strip in the south as well as its northern borders with Lebanon and Syria in preparation for a possible response by Iranian proxies, Hezbollah or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

CNN on Saturday cited a senior US official as saying American defense agencies were holding intense discussions to try and assess whether Iran plans to retaliate in the next few days or “within weeks.”

Iran has also stepped up its readiness to launch short and medium-range ballistic missiles, the official told CNN.

Iran’s military chief on Sunday dismissed Trump’s threat to target 52 sites in the Islamic Republic, saying he lacked the “courage” to initiate a war.

Earlier that day, Soleimani’s body arrived in Iran to chants of “Death to America” in both the streets and a parliamentary session.

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