Mullen Praises Israeli General for Improving Military Ties
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today praised his Israeli counterpart for improving U.S.-Israeli military-to-military contacts during his term of office.
Israeli Army Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has served at an extraordinary time, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. The chairman also said he wanted to take advantage of Ashkenazi’s likely last trip to the Pentagon to honor him.
Ashkenazi serves as the chief of general staff for the Israeli Defense Forces and is due to step down early next year.
“He has served nobly and has made a big difference in his own country, in the region and frankly throughout the world, Mullen said of Ashkenazi during a Pentagon press conference with the general.
U.S.-Israeli military-to-military ties run deep, the ties are broad and the alliance is critical, Mullen said, noting the relationship has improved under Ashkenazi’s watch.
“We have worked hard to understand each other and worked hard on difficult issues, which are out there,” the admiral said. “He represents a critical region in the globe –- one that continues to challenge … all of us. We in the United States are committed to that continuing relationship and to stability in the region.”
Ashkenazi said the United States and Israel have “deepened and increased the military program” with more exchanges, more contacts and more exercises between the nations.
“I also want to express our thanks on behalf of Israeli commanders and soldiers for your long fight in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the general said. “In a way, you are fighting our war as well. We are supporting you with our hearts and fighting with you shoulder to shoulder.”
The two leaders were asked by reporters about Iran’s intention to develop nuclear weapons. While no option –- including the military one -– is off the table, Mullen said, the United States will continue to employ diplomacy and economic sanctions to put pressure on the Iranian government. Iran’s development of nuclear weapons would be a disaster for the region, the admiral said.
“Right now, the focus is on dialogue and engagement and sanctions -- the sanctions are taking a fairly significant bite,” Mullen.
The chairman said he has seen a body of evidence that the sanctions against the Iranian government are taking their toll.
“They are doing so much more rapidly than some anticipated,” he said. “It’s been the total commitment on the part of many countries that have put the sanctions in the position to have a significant impact, very quickly.”