Washington: In the face of Israeli outrage over the Iran nuclear accord, the Pentagon is moving quickly to reinforce arguably the strongest part of the US-Israeli relationship: military cooperation.
But officials say Washington has no plans to offer new weaponry as compensation for the Iran deal.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter left for Tel Aviv today to push ahead with talks on ways the US can further improve Israel's security not just with Iranian threats in mind, but an array of other challenges, including cyberdefense and maritime security.
Israel also has expressed concern that US sales of advanced weaponry to Gulf Arab states has the potential of offsetting, to some degree, Israel's qualitative military edge.
Aides said in advance of the trip that although Carter strongly supports the Iran deal, he had no intention of trying to reverse Israeli opposition to it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the deal as a mistake of historic proportion.
Carter is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, as well as with Israeli generals, and visit troops in northern Israel. He plans to stop in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, US allies whose leaders also are worried about implications of the nuclear deal.
On the day the Iran accord was announced, Carter issued a statement saying the US is "prepared and postured" to help Israel improve its security, although he offered no specifics.
He added that the US would "use the military option if necessary" to protect its allies, to "check Iranian malign influence" and to ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf.
The US-Israel defense relationship has deepened in recent years, even as tensions between the two over how to contain Iran's nuclear program has grown.
The US has invested hundreds of millions in an Israeli air defense system known as Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets, mortars and artillery shells fired into northern Israel from southern Lebanon and into Israel's south from the Gaza Strip. The US has worked with Israel on anti-missile systems and a wide range of other defenses. Two years ago the Pentagon committed to providing advanced radars for Israel's fleet of fighter jets and KC-135 refueling aircraft, and making Israel the first country to buy the V-22 Osprey hybrid airplane-helicopter.