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WSJ: US Held Secret Meeting with Israel, Arab Military Leaders to Discuss Countering Iran

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JERUSALEM, Israel – The US held a secret meeting in March with top military officials from Israel and Arab countries to discuss how to counter Iran’s growing threat to the region, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. 

Military officials from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain convened at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt to explore how the countries can defend against Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities, the report said. 

Gen. Frank McKenzie represented the US in the talks, which marked the first time high-ranking Israeli and Arab officials had met to discuss military cooperation against a common threat. 

The leaders agreed in principle on a system for rapid notification when aerial threats are detected, the report said, however, those understandings weren’t binding. 

The next phase is securing political support from Mideast leaders on the notification procedures. The report said that although Israel and its neighbors are in the early stages of discussing military cooperation, the matter is still diplomatically sensitive.

Several years ago, such a meeting would have been unthinkable. However, the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalize ties with several Arab countries, has paved the way for such cooperation.

Arab countries are also more open to working with Israel because they seek access to the Jewish state’s air defense technology and weapons when Washington is shifting its priorities to China and Russia. 

US President Joe Biden will travel to the Middle East next month for a visit he says will focus on security challenges facing Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel hopes Biden’s visit will improve ties with the Saudi kingdom, with which it does not have official diplomatic relations.

Saudi Arabia was not part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords and said it wants to see a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before it normalizes ties with the Jewish state. However, Iran’s growing threat in the region has highlighted the importance of increased collaboration against Tehran. 

For decades, the US has sought to build an integrated air defense system in the Middle East. Still, efforts have been hampered by fears that Saudi Arabia would dominate the alliance and concerns by the Gulf States that sharing sensitive data with other countries in the region could expose their weaknesses. 

Spokesmen for Israel and most Arab countries declined to speak on the reported meeting at Sharm El Sheikh. The UAE did not address the talks but told WSJ that “The UAE is not party to any regional military alliance or cooperation targeting any specific country…Furthermore, the UAE is not aware of any formal discussions relating to any such regional military alliance.”

Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel is helping build a US-led air defense alliance against Tehran, and that the partnership has already thwarted Iranian attacks. 

“This program is already operative and has already enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries,” Gantz said. Biden’s visit to the region “will support this process,” he added.

An unnamed senior Israel official told WSJ the program is “still a work in progress” and “there are definitely partners who see it as too sensitive to talk about.”

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About The Author


Emily Jones is a multi-media journalist for CBN News in Jerusalem. Before she moved to the Middle East in 2019, she spent years regularly traveling to the region to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meet with government officials, and raise awareness about Christian persecution. During her college years, Emily served as president of Regent University's Christians United for Israel chapter and spoke alongside world leaders at numerous conferences and events. She is an active member of the Philos Project, an organization that seeks to promote positive Christian engagement with the Middle