US defence secretary visits Israel to quell Iran fears

Increased US military support for Israel is expected to be on the table in wake of Iran nuclear deal.

    Ash Carter (right) cited his country's commitment to "defend its friends and allies including Israel" [Reuters]
    Ash Carter (right) cited his country's commitment to "defend its friends and allies including Israel" [Reuters]

    Ash Carter, the US defence secretary, is visiting Israel to try to calm fears over last week's landmark agreement to curb Iran's nuclear programme.

    Carter told reporters just before landing in Tel Aviv, where officials are fuming over the Iran nuclear deal: "I'm not going to change anybody's mind in Israel. That's not the purpose of my trip."

    However, increased US military-related support is expected to be on the table. Israeli and US officials have played down the prospects of any looming announcements.

    "Friends can disagree but we have decades of rock-solid cooperation with Israel," Carter told reporters travelling with him.

    The US and Israel disagree on whether the Iran nuclear deal makes both countries safer.

    Analysis: Israel's response to the Iran nuclear deal

    Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, criticised the accord, calling the decision "a historic mistake for the world".

    Israel fears that Tehran's economic gains from a lifting of Western sanctions could boost Iranian-backed fighters in Lebanon and Palestine. It claims it could also lead to an arms race with Arab states unfriendly to Israel.

    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, did little to alleviate those concerns in a fiery speech marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Saturday.

    Khamenei said the nuclear deal would not change Iran's policy in supporting allies in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon and among the Palestinians.

    Barack Obama, the US president, has stressed that taking the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon off the table increases the security of Israel, the US and its allies.

    US officials have also signalled they are not changing a longstanding US defence strategy that is underpinned by the threat of a hostile Iran.

    Carter said the deal did not "place any limitations on the United States or what it does to defend... its friends and allies including Israel," and cited his country's commitment to allies to guard against potential Iranian aggression.

    Israel has a strong army, is believed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal, and receives about $3 billion a year in military-related support from the United States.

    That amount is expected to increase following the Iran deal.

    Carter is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and the defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, during his trip.

    SOURCE: Reuters And Al Jazeera


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