A military aid package from the US to Israel went into force according to an announcement by the US State Department on October 2nd.
The deal for the aid was signed in 2016 during the Obama administration and will provide $38 billion in US military financing between 2019 and 2028.
“As we enter the new fiscal year, the 10-year period of the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the United States and Israel in 2016 begins,” State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a written statement.
“Under the terms of the MOU, the United States will set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over each of the next 10 years.”
The implementation of the MOU reflects “the enduring and unshakable commitment of the President, this Administration, and the American people to Israel’s security,” she said.
She mentioned the escalating regional threats and the “terrorist groups sponsored first and foremost by Iran,” which are seeking to attack not only Israel, but also the interests of the US. Netanyahu and President Donald Trump, unlike the previous Obama administration, have been persistently warning against an allegedly imminent threat from Iran.
RT also reported that Netanyahu said Israel will continue to strike Iranian targets in Syria despite Russia’s S-300 anti-missile systems. Tel Aviv justifies its actions by the need to prevent Tehran from establishing a foothold on its borders and to stop alleged weapons transfers to Lebanese Hezbollah.
“Israel is also threatened by the reckless proliferation of destabilizing weapons systems into the region that increase the possibility of an escalated conflict in an already dangerous and volatile theater.”
“The United States unconditionally affirms Israel’s right to self-defense, and this MOU is a concrete demonstration of our commitment to Israel’s capacity to defend itself with a qualitative military edge over all potential regional adversaries,” she added.
“Israel and the world face complex security challenges, first and foremost the Iranian aggression,” Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew on the same day. “The unwavering support of the United States for Israel’s right to defend itself is one of the pillars of the strong relationship between the two countries.”
The Palestinian-Israel conflict is also at a standstill, with US President Donald Trump also expressing his support of the two-state solution, however Palestinians have rejected his comments. The US recently shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington and expelled the Palestinian diplomats and their families from the country. Palestinians cut diplomatic communication with the US, following Trump’s announcement that he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city.
The US also cut funding for the UNRWA, the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees, in obvious steps to pressure the Palestinians to accept an outcome of the conflict with Israel that is beneficial mostly to Tel Aviv’s side.
US efforts to bring “stability” to the Middle East do not stop with the funding for Israel. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the number of US diplomats in Syria has doubled as the defeat of ISIS draws ever so near.
The U.S.-led coalition, along with local partners, has largely cleared the militant group from Iraq and Syria but remains concerned about its resurgence.
“Our diplomats there on the ground have been doubled in number. As we see the military operations becoming less, we will see the diplomatic effort now able to take (root)” Mattis said.
An anonymous US official, cited by Reuters, said that Mattis was speaking about State Department employees, including diplomats and personnel involved in humanitarian assistance and that the increase was recent. The US has no embassy in Syria.
Reuters also reported that Raqqa, which served as the ISIS capital until it was retaken by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the predominantly Kurdish, US-backed militia that operate in the region. On September 30th, the SDF said that an ISIS sleeper cell had been uncovered, which was plotting large attacks across the city.
According to Mattis the fight against ISIS is still not done. “We are still in a tough fight, make no mistake about it,” he said.
The US has also increased efforts to form an “Arab NATO”, as reported by the Jordan Times it has been meticulously working on creating the new security alliance which would include the six Gulf Arab States, in addition to Jordan and Egypt. It is expected to be formally announced during the Gulf Summit in Washington, coming in mid-October. The new alliance will serve as a “bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism and will bring stability to the Middle East”, a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council said.
“The Trump administration has been quite forceful in expressing its commitment to Middle East security, and so may be close to considering a formal US defense alliance with Arab states,” said Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, the Assistant Secretary General for Negotiations & Strategic Dialogue in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The US claims to aim for stability in the Middle East, but it is one of the reasons of the instability. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as expressing their support for the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen, which has presumably left their civilian targeting behind, show that the US is not at all impartial.
US President Donald Trump initially claimed that US forces are withdrawing from Syria after the defeat of ISIS. However, recently it was announced that US forces would remain until Iran completely withdraws from Syria, despite Syria having signed a military cooperation with the Islamic Republic. The situation will most likely remain at a standstill and US forces will not withdraw, similarly to what has been going on for 17 years in Afghanistan, similarly to the remaining small contingent of US forces in Iraq, despite ISIS defeat in the country.
Top Photo | President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu at the White House, March 5, 2018. Evan Vucci | AP