During a visit to both Washington and the UN in New York, Israeli Military Intelligence Commander Major General Aviv Kochavi discussed the Iranian nuclear programme, the Syrian crisis, and Hezbollah’s increasing power base in Lebanon. This visit is one of a number of recent visits to the US by senior military and political figures.In Washington Kochavi met senior officials representing the White House and the State Department along with officials of the CIA and the Defense Department.
While Iran and its possible nuclear ambitions are believed to have been the central theme for the visit to Washington, it is believed further talks took place with UN Security Council member states about the ongoing unrest in Syria and the situation in Lebanon.
A European Diplomat who was briefed on the discussions highlighted the change in attitude of Israel towards Syria. Previously it had been thought that maintaining Assad as head of the country would suit Israel’s interests. However his removal from office as a result of the unrest is now seen as the better outcome for Israel and the same diplomat said that Kochavi believes that that will inevitably happen.
The military intelligence chief also warned against the rise in strength of Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon and said that this together with Syrian instability heightened the uncrtainty and overall instability in the region.
Other issues discussed included recent changes in the make up of the UN peace keeping force, UNIFIL. Previously contributions to this Force had mostly come from European countries. However the economic crises in these countries have caused them to cut their contributions back.
So whereas previously nearly half of the force’s soldiers – some 6,000 of 13,000 – came from large European countries such as France, Spain and Italy – now European soldiers are increasingly being replaced by soldiers from Muslim countries such as Indonesia, and Israel fears these soldiers will not take action as needed against Hezbollah.
A year ago Kochavi made a similar trip to Washington and New York during which Syria was the main focus of discussion. On that visit he warned representatives of Security Council member states that if Assad’s regime were to fall the Syrian army’s advanced weapons could fall into the hands of Hezbollah.