Israel calls for US-led regional force buildup against Iran

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Israel and Arab countries that share its worries about Iran should build up a joint force under a US aegis, the Israeli defense minister said on Tuesday ahead of a visit to the region by US President Joe Biden.

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The Iranian nuclear program, and so-far fruitless international negotiations to revive a 2015 deal capping it, are among issues likely to be on Biden’s agenda when he comes to Israel and Saudi Arabia next month.

In a speech, Defense Minister Benny Gantz cited Israel’s security ties with Gulf Arab states that drew closer to it under a 2020 US-sponsored diplomatic drive, as well as Egypt and Jordan, and said there were efforts to expand such cooperation.

“What is needed is not just cooperation, but also a regional force build-up, with American leadership, which would strengthen all parties involved,” he said, according to an official transcript.

The original Hebrew did not make clear whether “force” referred to a joint military unit, or more general capabilities.

“On this, we are working continually, for the sake of the security of Israel’s citizens,” Gantz said.

Saudi Arabia signaled its backing for the so-called Abraham Accords under which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain forged relations with Israel two years ago. But Riyadh has stopped short of formally recognizing neighboring Israel.

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