Obama’s nominee for defence chief ‘tough on Iran, friendly to Israel’


Two years ago, when the United States Senate held its confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s nomination for Secretary of Defence, a pitched battle ensued on Chuck Hagel’s suitability for the post, largely due to his previously critical statements on Israel and a perceived “softness” towards Iran.

His likely replacement, Ashton Carter, will have no such troubles. The physicist and former senior Pentagon official has a strong record of co-operation with Israel’s security establishment and is on the record urging a tougher line on Iran.

Despite the non-confrontational approach of the Obama administration towards the Iranian regime, Prof Carter, one of the most senior defence officials to serve in this administration, has advocated presenting Iran with a clear threat of military force if it continues to develop nuclear weapons.

During a 2013 visit to Israel, he said in a meeting with IDF personnel: “Protecting America means protecting Israel, and that’s why we’re here in the first place.”
In his previous positions he took part in negotiating major arms deals with Israel, including the sale of the advanced F-35 “stealth” fighter.

Obama’s three previous defence secretaries all complained of being “micro-managed” and bypassed by the White House, and Iran policy is run by the State Department. For these reasons, Prof Carter may not have that much of an influence on the administration’s policy in the Middle East. Then again, given that the relationship between the leaders of the two countries is tense, it will be useful for the Israeli government to have more friendly contact in the highest echelons in Washington.

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