U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has told reporters in Tel Aviv that despite differences between the U.S. and Israel over the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains as strong as ever. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said it plainly just before landing in Israel, where officials are fuming over the Iran nuclear deal: "I'm not going to change anybody's mind in Israel. That's not the purpose of my trip." Carter, making the first visit by a U.S. cabinet official to Israel since last week's landmark agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program, aims instead to move away from political tensions over the accord to more cool-headed, nuts-and-bolts discussions on deepening security ties. Increased U.S. military-related support is expected to be on the table. But Israeli and U.S. officials have played down the prospects of any looming announcements. "Friends can disagree but we have decades of rock-solid cooperation with Israel," Carter told reporters traveling with him. Carter's mission will not be an easy one. The United States and Israel fundamentally differ on whether the Iran nuclear deal makes both countries safer. President Barack Obama says it does; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it does not. Israel fears that Tehran's economic gains from a lifting of Western sanctions could boost Iranian-backed guerrillas in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Netanyahu says it could also lead to an arms race with Arab states unfriendly to Israel. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, did little to alleviate those concerns in a fiery speech marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Saturday. Khamenei said the nuclear deal would not change Iran's policy in supporting allies in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon and among the Palestinians. Obama has stressed that taking the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon off the table increases the security of Israel, the United States and its allies. U.S. officials have also signaled they are not changing a longstanding U.S. defense strategy that is underpinned by the threat of a hostile Iran. "Neither the deal nor everything else we're doing to advance our military strategy in the region assumes anything about Iranian behavior," Carter said. "There's nothing in those 100 pages that places any limitations on the United States or what it does to defend ...its friends and allies including Israel." Carter also cited the U.S. commitment to allies to guard against potential Iranian aggression.