US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington July 29, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday sought to assure lawmakers that the US military would maintain a strong presence in the Middle East to ” check Iran’s malign influence” despite the nuclear deal.
“In the face of that malign activity, we will continue to meet our commitments to our friends and allies in the region, especially Israel, and continue to build on and enhance our cooperation in meaningful ways,” Carter told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Carter, together with chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey appeared before the Senate panel to testify on the Iran nuclear deal, which is facing skepticism from Congress ahead of a crucial vote this fall.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also joined the Pentagon leaders, in testifying in their third public hearing in two weeks.
Carter endorsed the agreement as “a good deal,” saying that it removes a continued source of threat and uncertainty in “a comprehensive and verifiable way” by preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Amid fear of Republicans and some Democrats that the Iran deal will risk Israel’s security, Carter pointed out that the US would maintain its “ironclad commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge” in the region.
“We will keep providing Israel with advanced capabilities, for example, next year, Israel will be our first and only friend in the region flying the F-35 stealth fighter,” he said.
The US will also help improve the capabilities of other Gulf partners.
“And, we’ve offered sophisticated defense equipment, including the THAAD ballistic missile defense system and long-range precision strike capabilities, to some of our Gulf partners,” he said.
Carter said the US would continue to maintain a “robust” force posture in the region, which includes tens of thousands of US troops and sophisticated ground, maritime, air and ballistic missile defense assets.
US Congress is expected to vote on the deal in the fall. A resolution of disapproval by Congress would prevent the White House from lifting US sanctions on Iran, unless President Barack Obama vetoed the resolution and Democrats sustained that veto.