Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has sought to reassure Israel and other Middle East allies that a nuclear deal with Iran did not alter military options for the US.
"One of the reasons why this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military option," Carter told reporters on board his flight to Israel on Sunday. It will be his first stop on a Middle East tour intended to ease concerns among US allies over the landmark accord.
"We are preserving and continually improving" such a military option, should Iran violate the terms of the agreement, said Carter.
Carter will meet his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon on Monday, before holding talks on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called the deal a "historic mistake" and has hinted at a possible military response.
Carter's trip will also see him visit Saudi Arabia, another country where the nuclear accord has been met with wariness. There he will reassure Gulf allies that the US intends to maintain a strong presence in the region.
Carter is expected to meet with King Salman while in Saudi Arabia, along with the king's son and defense minister, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
As for Saudi Arabia and the five other Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Carter said the US wanted to bolster cooperation in the areas of "counterterrorism, special operation forces, maritime security" as well as air and missile defenses and cybersecurity.
In Jordan, Carter will visit a military base to meet colleagues of a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive by the "Islamic State" group earlier this year.
av/cmk (AFP, Reuters)