Pentagon chief’s message for Israel after US-Iran Nuclear deal: We’re still here for you

July 20, 2015 1:44 pm

 

Defence Secretary Ash Carter says the deal with won’t affect what Washington can do for Israel. Photo / AP

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter says he has no expectation of
persuading Israeli leaders to drop their opposition to the Iran nuclear
deal, but will instead emphasise that the accord imposes no limits on
what Washington can do to ensure the security of Israel and US Arab
allies.
“Our ability to carry out that strategy is unchanged,” Carter said today aboard his plane en route to Tel Aviv.
The
Obama administration reserves the right to use military force against
Iran if necessary, he added, although the nuclear deal is intended to
preclude that by resolving the issue diplomatically.
Carter is
scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon tomorrow
and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday before traveling
to Saudi Arabia and Jordan to consult on the implications of the Iran
deal and to assess progress in the regional campaign against the Islamic
State group. One of the bases used for US-led training and arming of
moderate Syrian rebels is in Jordan, and the Jordanian air force has
carried out strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria.

One Jordanian pilot was captured and killed by the militants.
Netanyahu
has been harshly critical of the Iran nuclear deal, asserting that it
clears the way for Iran to build nuclear weapons that would threaten
Israel’s existence and ultimately diminish US and global security.
“I’m not going to change anybody’s mind in Israel,” Carter said. “We can agree to disagree.”
In
his remarks, Carter repeatedly mentioned that the Iran deal places no
limitations on the US defence strategy or its military presence in the
Middle East, which includes warplanes, an aircraft carrier and tens of
thousands of troops. He gave no indication, however, that the Pentagon
plans immediate moves to bolster that presence, which is anchored by the
Navy’s 5th fleet headquarters in Bahrain, an air operations center in
Qatar and a military headquarters in Kuwait running the war against the
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Life is expected to change for Iranians when sanctions ease as a result of the nuclear deal. Photo / AP
Life is expected to change for Iranians when sanctions ease as a result of the nuclear deal. Photo / AP
Carter previewed the message he will convey to Israel,
Jordan and Saudi Arabia on behalf of President Barack Obama, who already
has called a number of Mideast leaders to reaffirm US support and to
explain the Iran deal.
“This is a good deal,” Carter said. “It
removes a critical element of danger, threat and uncertainty from the
region,” and does so in a way that can be verified not only by the US
but by the international community.
Asked whether he thinks the
Iran accord makes it more likely that Israel will launch a pre-emptive
military strike on Iran, Carter noted that the US has discussed military
options with Israel for a number of years.
“One of the reasons
this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military
option – the U.S. military option, which I’m responsible for” and which
will be improved and preserved, he said.
The US-Israel defence
relationship has deepened in recent years, even as tensions between the
two over how to contain Iran’s nuclear programme has grown.
The
US has invested hundreds of millions in an Israeli air defence system
known as Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets, mortars
and artillery shells fired into northern Israel from southern Lebanon
and into Israel’s south from the Gaza Strip. The US has worked with
Israel on anti-missile systems and a wide range of other defenses. Two
years ago the Pentagon committed to providing advanced radars for
Israel’s fleet of fighter jets and KC-135 refueling aircraft, and making
Israel the first country to buy the V-22 Osprey hybrid
airplane-helicopter.
Just two months ago Washington announced a
US$1.9 billion arms sale to Israel for a range of missiles and bombs,
including bunker busters that can penetrate reinforced defenses to reach
underground targets. Not included is the Pentagon’s biggest bunker
buster bomb.
Israeli officials insist they are not prepared to
discuss American “compensation” for the Iran deal, saying that would
imply acceptance of the accord. Israel believes there are loopholes in
the deal that will allow Iran to emerge as a nuclear power eventually.
“Everybody talks about compensating Israel,” Netanyahu said on ABC’s This Week programme.
“I
guess the question you have to ask yourself is, if this deal is
supposed to make Israel and our Arab neighbours safer, why should we be
compensated with anything?”

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