Hagel's Israeli visit to focus on Iran, Syria
Updated: 2013-04-22 10:05
Israel is the first stop of Hagel's week-long trip to the Middle East, which will also take him to Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during his visit at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem April 21, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
Hagel had been doubted for his views on Israel and Iran, but has since worked to convince his doubters that he is a strong supporter of Israel and opposes a nuclear armed Iran. To back his words up, he is expected to announce a major arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the New York Times.
The total value of the deal is reported to be 10 billion US dollars for all three countries. The deal will include a number of advanced weapons systems aimed both at countering the threat from Iran and giving Israel the ability to deal with challenges closer to its borders, the newspaper reported.
Professor Uzi Rabi, of Tel Aviv University, told Xinhua Sunday that Hagel's visit serves the double-purpose: to show Americans' support for Israel, and to send a message to Iran that it needs to understand that unless serious progress is made in the so-called P5+1 negotiations, there is a credible military option.
"The second half of 2013 is a real critical period in terms of this Israel-Iran-US (triangle)," Rabi said.
"I guess that the P5+1 will provide Iran with another trial for two or three months, but come September and October if there is no news we are back to square one and the United States will have to decide how to proceed from there," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a nuclear armed Iran an "existential threat" to Israel, and during a speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2012, he urged the international community, especially Washington, to establish clear limits or "red lines" for how much uranium Iran should be allowed to enrich. Enriched uranium is a key component when producing a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have in the past said Israel cannot allow Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, often stating that all options are on the table.
However, after the United States and the European Union decided to impose additional economic sanctions on Iran, Israel's notion of an attack has been largely absent for the public discourse. The silence has been interpreted as that Netanyahu has resigned to the fact that Israel singlehandedly cannot destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure and that it is better for Israel to stand back and let the United States take the lead.
However, the possibility of an Israeli attack has in the past been used by Washington as a reason to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, and Rabi added that Hagel's visit could also be seen as a way "to send a message to Iran that the United States is still actually blocking Israel from doing an attack."