Several top US security officials have reportedly been visiting Israel this week, along with top European diplomats here to brief Jerusalem on the interim deal between the P5+1 and Iran.
Reuters quoted an Israeli security source as saying that the chiefs of the FBI and the National Security Agency both quietly visited. Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Monday that the two — FBI Director James B. Comey and NSA chief Keith Alexander — attended parts of an unprecedented Israeli-American-Greek-Italian air drill, which has been taking place in southern Israel in recent days.
The TV report claimed that US Air Force chief Gen. Mark Welsh also attended the “Blue Flag” air drill, which simulated a multilateral strike against an enemy country equipped with a modern air force, an active air defense and aerial terror capacities. But military sources, speaking to The Times of Israel, denied that Welsh was there.
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who was present at the drill, took pains to clarify that it was unrelated to events concerning Iran. He stressed that “Blue Flag is pretending realistic training scenarios, [and is] not tied to any specific events.”
The Obama administration has been emphasizing its close security relationship with Israel in part to show that a rift over how best to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power has not badly affected ties.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama have publicly sniped at each other over the interim deal signed by the P5+1 world powers and Iran in Geneva on Sunday. They also agreed in a phone call late Sunday that Netanyahu would send his national security adviser, Meir Cohen, at the head of a delegation to Washington to ensure Israeli concerns are taken into account in the upcoming P5+1 negotiations with Iran on a permanent accord.
Top French Foreign Ministry official Jacques Audibert was set to brief senior Israeli officials Wednesday on the Iran deal, and British negotiator Simon Gass followed suit.
Gass, the head of the British negotiating team in Geneva, met with Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz and intelligence agency representatives to discuss the details of the deal struck over the weekend as well as the impending negotiations on a permanent accord. Details from the meeting were not released, but a statement from Steinitz’s office characterized the meeting as “open and friendly.”
France’s intervention at an earlier round of talks in Geneva ensured that improvements were made to the interim deal’s clause dealing with Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor.
On Tuesday, senior Israeli ministers were given a marathon briefing by intelligence chiefs on the implications of the Iran deal and wider regional developments.