Pompeo to Netanyahu: ‘US committed to confronting Iranian regime’s threats’
Thomas COEX (AFP/File)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Brussels on Monday evening that Washington is committed to “confronting the totality of the Iranian regime’s threats.”
A statement from the US State Department said that Pompeo “emphasized the United States' commitment to Israel's security and absolute right to self-defense” and “reiterated America’s resolve in confronting the totality of the Iranian regime’s threats through maximum pressure.”
The meeting came amid heightened tensions over Iranian actions in the region, with Pompeo accusing Tehran of illegally testing nuclear-capable warheads and Israel accusing it of continuing to arm Lebanon's Hezbollah with heavy weapons.
In public remarks at the beginning of their meeting, Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for his “strong” stance on Iran and said he looked forward to discussing joint efforts to “curb Iran's aggression in the region, in Syria, in Iraq, in Lebanon and elsewhere.”
Netanyahu, who was joined on the flash trip to Brussels by top Israeli security and intelligence officials, reportedly conveyed a warning to Beirut through Pompeo that Israel could be forced to take preemptive military action if Lebanon does not take action to prevent advanced arms from being shipped directly to the Iran-backed militia.
Reports in recent weeks have indicated that Hezbollah has been receiving direct arms shipments from Iran, and not through Syria as has been the case until recently.
Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian positions in Syria, often targeting weapons convoys bound for Lebanon.
Following a strike in Syria attributed to Israel on Sunday, Hezbollah issued a graphic video warning Israel not to attack in Lebanon, appearing to show several Israeli targets in its cross hairs including an oil refinery, air force bases, the nuclear reactor in Dimona and IDF’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
With an estimated arsenal of some 100,000 and 120,000 short-and medium-range missiles and rockets as well as several hundred long-range missiles, Israel considers Hezbollah its chief threat.
Israel has significantly stepped up its defenses along the Lebanese border, out of concern that Hezbollah will emerge more battle-hardened from its costly involvement in the civil war in Syria.
Hours after Netanyahu returned from Brussels, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced the launch of an operation, dubbed "Operation Northern Shield", to prevent and destroy underground tunnels dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israeli territory.
Israel and Lebanon have been involved in a series of conflicts over the years and the two remain technically at war.
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