Preparing for any potential war against Iran, the Biden administration has formally elevated Israel in military planning. Israel’s changed status comes as the U.S. military refocuses from the ‘war on terror’ to potential combat with the big four—China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.
As Israel has become a full-fledged military partner, the U.S. intelligence community is also putting more emphasis on its Hebrew language program to spy on its number-one Mideast ally.
For the Pentagon, Israel is the most prized military and intelligence partner in the Middle East, with its vast combat experience and advanced technologies. With the end of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the brokering of the Abraham Accords by the Trump administration, Washington sees an opportunity to incorporate Israel into a new regional alliance. The Accords established diplomatic relations between Israel and several of its Arab neighbors.
“Israel is coming out of the closet, allowed now to openly cooperate with the [U.S.] military while at the same time being denied access to another closet,” says a senior intelligence official, referring to the world of American intelligence. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss military planning, says that for some things, such as targeting, exchanges are part of the new military alliance. But where U.S.-Israeli interests might diverge, such as counterintelligence against Israeli spying, or uncovering secrets about Israel’s own nuclear arsenal, the United States has redoubled its collection efforts.
President Biden signed a major change of the biennial Unified Command Plan last year, codifying the change in Israel’s position in U.S. military planning. The Unified Command Plan is the highest level document that determines every command’s area of operations. UCP 2021 shifted Israel to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the command responsible for the Middle East from its previous assignment as part of European Command (EUCOM). European Command oversaw the military dimensions of the special relationship, working with the country to defend it in very specific circumstances against its neighbors.