TEL AVIV , Israel, July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter began a tour of the Middle East to reassure allies after the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Speaking in Tel Aviv Monday, during a meeting with Israel Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Carter said that "the region is complicated and troubled" but reiterated to the allies that their priorities and interests are very clear. Carter added how a priority for the United States is "the friendship and alliance with Israel. Israel is the bedrock of American strategy in the Middle East."
Israel, and notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been critical of the agreement, which curbs Iranian nuclear ambitions in exchange for easing of economic sanctions. It fears Iran will better arm militant groups in the region after the sanctions are removed, and could still secretly develop nuclear weapons.
Israeli legislator Tzipi Livni called for "an entirely new order of securities, guarantees, arms and diplomatic agreements" to help Israel and Arab countries deal with the effects of the agreement. There is no consideration of additional assistance by the U.S. Congress, although Tzahi Hanegbi, head of the Israel Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, noted Monday, "I assume that if Congress fails to change or improve the agreement, then we will discuss solutions."
Carter and Yaalon also visited northern Israel by helicopter, where Carter was briefed on Israel's border situation with Lebanon and Syria. Carter said intelligence gathering and sharing, the five-tear Syrian civil war and the Islamic State were points of discussion.