Israel on Wednesday voiced support for U.S.-led efforts to form an alliance to fight Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq but expressed concerns of a rapprochement between Washington and Iran.
On the eve of President Obama’s prime-time address on confronting IS, Israel National News reports that Israel’s official position was one of approval. “I praise the American initiative to take action and form a coalition against the Islamic State and hope those efforts will succeed,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in comments broadcast on public radio.
Lieberman’s comments coincided with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s arrival in Baghdad on an unannounced visit at the start of a Middle East tour aimed at building a regional coalition to combat IS, the extremist Sunni militants who have taken over significant territory in both Syria and Iraq. Kerry is not scheduled to visit Israel on his trip.
Yesterday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon called for greater cooperation between the world’s intelligence agencies in an effort to defeat IS.
But underneath the expressions of unity with America and calls for global cooperation, Israel is concerned that American efforts to build a coalition to fight IS will involve a degree of rapprochement with Iran at a time that the Iranians are widely believed to be developing nuclear weapons.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who is close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, praised the initiative but warned it may signal closer ties between the United States and Iran, which has also pledged to join the struggle.
“There could be some kind of flexibility vis-a-vis Iran by the Americans in the fight against IS,” he said.
Israel is anxious about the interim nuclear deal that Washington and other Western powers reached with Tehran last November, which Israel fears is buying the Iranians time to develop their nuclear capabilities.
Those negotiations already passed one deadline in July, but the parties agreed to extend the talks until November 24 to allow more time to reach a historic deal. The new talks are to open in New York ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly on September 16. Meanwhile, Iranian centrifuges continue to spin.
Israel has refused to rule out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent the possibility of developing the technology for an atomic bomb. Israel fears that, should the rabidly anti-Israel Iranians cross the nuclear threshold, they will target the Jewish state with nuclear weapons.
Fledgling efforts to combat IS have already placed America and Iran on the same side in Iraq. American airstrikes in Iraq have supported Shia Islamist militias backed by Iran, including during the breaking of the Islamic State’s siege of the Shia town of Amerli last week.