US Pentagon chief tries to assure Israel after Iran deal

Hussein Lookout (Israel): On a hilltop lookout near Israel’s border with Lebanon, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter offered personal assurances today that the US will help Israel counter Iranian support for the militant group Hezbollah.

He called it one example of how the US can support the Jewish state in the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal.

Carter visited Hussein Lookout, with a sweeping view of the border as well as the Golan Heights, in an effort to emphasise US concern about a range of threats that face Israel.

These include tens of thousands of short-, medium- and longer-range Hezbollah rockets and missiles in southern Lebanon that could hit Israeli villages and cities.

“Hezbollah is sponsored of course by Iran, which is why the United States will continue to help Israel counter Iranian malign influence in the region,” Carter told reporters after receiving an Israeli security briefing in the area.

Carter hit the same theme later at a joint news conference in Tel Aviv with Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon.

They used the appearance to make a public show of unity at a low point in US-Israeli relations heavily strained by Israeli’s opposition to the Iran deal.

The agreement, reached between US-led world powers and Iran, puts limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting crippling economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Israeli leaders have complained that the deal does nothing to address Iran’s support for hostile anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They also say the deal does not have sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from reaching the capability to make nuclear weapons.

Yaalon warmly praised Carter’s track record of support for Israel, while acknowledging the split over the Iran deal. “We greatly disagree when it comes to the agreement with Iran and fear for the future in the aftermath of its signing,” Yaalon said.

“Yet we discuss this issue in a fully open manner, alongside many other issues of great importance.