By Meghashyam Mali - 01/15/12 08:47 PM EST
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, will visit Israel next week.
The Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed the planned Thursday visit, according to a report from The Associated Press.
While Dempsey's agenda was not disclosed, his visit comes amid growing tensions as the United States, Israel and European allies seek to dissuade Iran from continuing with its nuclear enrichment program.
Iran insists that its program is intended for peaceful purposes; however, the U.S. believes Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for oil shipments, after the U.S. passed sanctions against Iran's central bank and began efforts to persuade European Union countries to pass an oil embargo.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta though warned Iranian officials through secret channels that closing the strait would be a "red line" for the U.S. and would prompt an American military response according to a report in the New York Times.
Tensions escalated again last week when Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American was sentenced to death on Monday over charges he was spying for the CIA.
On Wednesday, an Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated. Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the U.S. and Israel of carrying out the act, however U.S. officials have denied involvement.