On his first stop in Israel on Tuesday, Ashton Carter (photo, left) sought to assuage Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the deal with Iran, which will lift economic sanctions on the country in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The US defense secretary said his country and Israel had a "common commitment to countering Iranian malign influence in the region" and that Israel would remain "the bedrock of American strategy in the Middle East."
'Friends can disagree'
Netanyahu "made it quite clear that he disagreed with us with respect to the nuclear deal and Iran. But friends can disagree," Carter said at a speech to American military personnel stationed in Jordan, the US' strategic ally in the war against the "Islamic State" (IS).
"We will continue to work with Israel and other partners in the region to counter the danger from Iran, even as we do the same with respect to ISIL," he said, referring to the "Islamic State" by its other acronym.
Israel accuses Iran of supporting its enemies, like the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Israel argues that lifting sanctions on Iran will boost its support to such groups and that the deal is not enough to ensure Tehran will not acquire nuclear arms. The two countries are sworn enemies - Iran has even refused to recognize Israel's status as a country.
Iran signed a nuclear agreement on July 14 with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - France, Britain, Russia, China and the United States, along with Germany. Under the deal, Iran has agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions.
The UN passed a resolution endorsing the deal on Monday, and on Tuesday Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif submitted the agreement to his country's parliament for review. The US Congress is also to review and make its decision within the next two months.
Next stop: Saudi Arabia
In Jordan, Carter also met colleagues of Muath al-Kaseasbeh, the Jordanian pilot who was kidnapped and burned alive by IS militants earlier this year. "The enemy has to be defeated…It will be, because the barbarians are always defeated by civilization, a few by the many," Carter told his audience.
The top-ranking official was expected to travel to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, where the conflict in Yemen will likely dominate discussions. Riyadh has launched an air offensive against Shiite Houthi rebels, allegedly backed by Iran, who are fighting against President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi has meanwhile sought refuge in Saudi Arabia.
mg/cmk (AFP, dpa)