US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Sunday he has no expectation of changing Israel’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Instead, he announced as he headed to the Jewish state, he would use his meetings with Israeli leaders to discuss ways of deepening military ties.
“I’m not going to change anybody’s mind in Israel. That’s not the purpose of my trip,” Carter told members of the media en route to Israel, Reuters reported.
Carter touched down in Tel Aviv on Sunday night and is scheduled to meet with his Israeli counterpart on Monday, followed by a meeting Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is the first member of Obama’s Cabinet to visit Israel since the Iran deal was clinched last week. After talks in Israel, he was to head to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Carter previewed the message he will convey to Israeli, Jordanian and Saudi leaders on behalf of President Barack Obama.
“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 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 US military option, which I’m responsible for” and which will be improved and preserved, he said.
Carter acknowledged that Netanyahu is staunchly opposed to the deal. The Israeli leader believes the pact will enable Iran to become a nuclear power. Carter said he and Netanyahu will have to agree to disagree on that.
“Friends can disagree but we have decades of rock-solid cooperation with Israel,” the defense secretary told reporters.
Meanwhile, Channel 2 reported Sunday that the US is considering providing an extensive military package to Israel in the wake of the Iranian nuclear accord.
Sources in Washington indicated they will provide the Jewish state with advanced weaponry and technology, apparently to compensate for the boost the deal will give Iran.
Netanyahu rejected the notion of a reimbursement package Sunday, saying that no amount of compensation would be enough to confront a nuclear armed Iran “sworn to our destruction.”
“Why should we need to be compensated if the deal is supposed to make us safer?” he asked. “The deal endangers our security, our survival even, and the security of the Middle East and the world,” Netanyahu said, during a US media blitz in the wake of the deal.