Pentagon chief to Israel: Iran deal is good, military option still on the table

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter © James Lawler Duggan
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter wants to convince Israel that the Iran nuclear deal does not limit American options when it comes to the ally’s security. Carter has set out to meet Israeli officials, who have been staunchly opposed to the deal.

“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,” Carter told reporters aboard his plane while traveling to Tel Aviv.

Carter arrived in Israel on Sunday evening and is scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

The Pentagon head stressed that his trip does not involve convincing Israel to like the deal, stating he’s “not going to change anybody’s mind in Israel. We can agree to disagree.” 

READ MORE: Iran, 6 major powers reach nuclear deal

The main thing he will try to get across is that nothing has really changed for the US: “Our ability to carry out that strategy is unchanged,” he said, adding that the goal is to ensure the security of Israel and US Arab allies.

The nuclear deal is in place to make it possible to solve all the issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program via diplomatic channels, but if all else fails, there is always the military option, Carter argued, which could involve warplanes, an aircraft carrier, and tens of thousands of troops. 

Carter’s future plans include visiting Saudi Arabia and Jordan, where he will convey a similar message, which is: “This is a good deal … It removes a critical element of danger, threat and uncertainty from the region,” while stressing that all previous options remain available.

READ MORE: ​Skeptics, snapbacks & Netanyahu: How Iran nuclear deal could still be derailed  

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been deeply opposed to the Iran nuclear agreement. On Sunday, the Israeli Prime Minister told ABC that he intends to call on Carter not to pursue the treaty: “Don’t make this bad deal. Hold out for a better deal.” 

Netanyahu further questioned the idea that Israel could somehow be compensated for the deal: “How can you compensate a country, my country, against a terrorist regime that is sworn to our destruction and is going to get a path to nuclear bombs and billions of dollars?” he asked. 

Last week, Netanyahu called the Iran nuclear agreement “a historic mistake for the world,” adding that Israel is not bound by the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. He stressed that Israel will always defend itself against Tehran, which “continues to seek its destruction.”

READ MORE: 'Stunning historical mistake': Netanyahu says Israel is not bound by Iran nuclear deal 

On Tuesday, it was announced that Iran and six leading world powers have reached a comprehensive plan for ending international sanctions against Iran in exchange for putting restrictions on its controversial nuclear program.

The deal signed in Vienna will break a 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear activities.

According to the draft agreement, the economic sanctions against Iran would be lifted immediately after verification of its compliance with the deal. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was tasked with verifying voluntary nuclear-related measures by Iran. 

READ MORE: Key points of historic nuclear deal reached by Iran and 6 world powers  

The US has passed on the signed agreement to Congress. The lawmakers have a 60-day period to look over the deal, beginning on Monday.