WASHINGTON, July 21, 2015 —
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon yesterday discussed steps to strengthen mutual security in the region, from missile defense and cybersecurity to Israel’s qualitative military edge and joint contingency plans for regional situations.
Carter and Yaalon took the podium at the Israeli defense ministry in Tel Aviv to brief international media representatives on their meetings.
Carter was on the first stop of a weeklong trip to three Middle Eastern nations that also includes Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
“Israel is a cornerstone of our strategy in the Middle East, and its security and qualitative military edge are a top priority for America, for our military and for me personally,” Carter told reporters.
Middle East Strategy
“That's especially true when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, which the deal reached in Vienna last week -- which is a good deal -- is designed to do,” he added.
Some Israeli leaders believe Iran could be strengthened by money and conventional capabilities that the deal allows, but Yaalon and Carter each said no such disagreement could affect the strong bond between Israel and the United States.
“The nations surrounding us are falling apart and are being replaced by a multitude of terror organizations armed not only with advanced weaponry but with murderous ideology,” Yaalon said at the press conference.
“This situation demands all of us -- the United States, Israel and other nations -- to act wisely, responsibly and soberly to identify opportunities and act together to vigorously combat these threats,” he added.
Carter said, “Friends can disagree about whether [the Iran deal] will work, and we'll be watching Iran very closely to see, but there's no disagreement about the ultimate objective. We cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon.”
There’s also no disagreement, the secretary added, about the threats Israel faces every day from Iran's destabilizing activities and from terrorists like Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
The U.S. pledge to defend Israel remains rock solid, Carter said, and he summarized Defense Department efforts to help strengthen Israel’s security. The department, he added, will continue to do the following:
-- Maintain a robust force posture that allows the rapid surge of forces to help defend Israel if needed, leveraging the most advanced ground, naval and air assets and sophisticated munitions that put no target out of reach.
-- Maintain its ironclad commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge so Israel can defend itself by itself from any threat.
-- Maintain vital support for the Iron Dome air defense system and contributions to the David's Sling and Arrow systems that will shoot down longer-range rockets and ballistic missiles, and continue training and exercising together every year.
The department also will continue to provide advanced capabilities, Carter said.
“Next year, Israel will be our first and only friend in the region flying the F-35 stealth fighter,” he added.
The secretary said these efforts are only part of what the United States is doing for Israel's security.
“As Minister Yaalon and I discussed in our meeting, if more is needed in the future, then we'll do more. Going forward we will ensure that our forces and the unmatched power they bring to bear remain kept at the ready,” Carter said.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)