US security guarantees won’t be ‘swag bag’ of arms, officials say

Mideast allies should expect military exercises and not more hardware as the US seeks to assuage defense concerns after Iran deal

A B-52 releases a test version of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator in 2009 (Photo credit: Public Domain/US Government)
A B-52 releases a test version of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator in 2009 (Photo credit: Public Domain/US Government)

Washington’s security assurances for Mideast allies in the wake of the nuclear deal struck with Iran last week won’t come in the form of a military handout, US officials said.

The US has reportedly offered to hand out military aid to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies to offset an accord struck with Iran last week opposed by those countries.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who was set to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport Sunday as part of a tour of American allies in the Middle East, is expected to reassure Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel of Washington’s commitment to their self-defense.

Contrary to rumors, such commitments would not take the form of offensive military weaponry, according to a Saturday report in Defense News.

“There seems to be some conflation between the Iran nuclear deal and the expectation to fix all the bad things Iran does that we and our partners don’t like,” a US official told the news outlet. “Obviously those issues will continue to be a key subject of conversation, but there’s not going to be a swag bag of military hardware as a result of this deal.”

The US commitment would take the form of military exercises, arms stockpiles and regional troop presence, not shipments of sophisticated armaments, Defense News reported.

The Pentagon said Carter would be working with Israeli defense officials “to further explore ongoing efforts to identify solutions to some of their most critical security challenges — countering Iran’s destabilizing activities and preventing terror attacks.”

A former Obama administration official said Thursday that the US should provide Israel with B-52 bombers, cold war-era behemoths capable of delivering the bunker-busting bombs which would necessary to destroy Iran’s subterranean nuclear facilities, as a means of deterrence.

A former Israeli general brushed aside the suggestion, telling Defense News that it would be tantamount to “buying a pair of shoes many sizes too large.”

On Tuesday, Carter will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has lambasted the landmark agreement as a “historic mistake.”

The White House said Friday that the US is trying to increase its security cooperation with Israel.

On Thursday, US diplomat Wendy Sherman told Israeli reporters that Israel had turned down previous offers of aid, so as not to be seen as okaying the nuclear deal.

Netanyahu and other Israeli defense officials have threatened to take military action if necessary to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, though they maintain they prefer a better diplomatic solution.

“The deal won’t change radically what we do here at the Defense Department,” the US official insisted to Defense News, dismissing suggestions of increased US military aid to Israel or Saudi Arabia, or new arms deals with them.

“We are committed to maintaining a strong presence, particularly in the Gulf.”

Carter’s wide-ranging conversations with his counterparts and other officials are expected to also cover military and weapons procurement.

“But frankly, they are the same conversation we would have if there was no deal that had been signed,” the official said.

Israel had long opposed the emerging terms of the deal with its arch-foe Iran.

“We will be prepared and postured to support the security of our allies, particularly Israel,” the US official said.

Carter will hold meetings in Israel on Monday and Tuesday, before traveling to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, though the details of his schedule have not yet been finalized.

In Jordan, he will visit a military base to meet colleagues of a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive by the Islamic State group.

The base, not far from the Syrian border, is used by several countries participating in the US-led anti-IS coalition

His Israel tour had been planned before the Iran nuclear deal was signed, but President Barack Obama announced the visit publicly soon after the agreement was signed Tuesday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that Israelis concerns about Iran were legitimate, and that Obama had pursued the deal with Iran as it was the “best way” to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Earnest made the comments during a Twitter chat under the hashtag “askpressec”. He added that the deal “is in the national security interest of the US and our closet Mideast ally, Israel.”

Earnest told a White House briefing Friday that a State Department counterterrorism official met with Israeli counterparts this week.

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