In a press briefing on August 3, senior US defense official Ernest Moniz said that if Iran should attack Israel, America will protect it.
Moniz told a visiting delegation of Israeli diplomatic reporters that Israel’s status as a US ally means that the US will offer it the same defense it would any NATO ally.
“We live this commitment every day, it’s something we do for Israel on a daily basis,” he said. “We have a ally relationship with Israel and the word ally means something to us. It means that if you are attacked, we will defend you.”
He said that the US is “appalled” by Iranian leadership’s call to destroy Israel mere days after the signing of the deal.
“This is not the way a country should behave in today’s world. But that does not mean that we shouldn’t sign an agreement that reduces the risk of Iran becoming a nuclear state,” he said. “We do not expect Iran to radically change its behavior following the agreement. We are trying to deal with the nuclear issue and bring it to a level of transparency and visibility.”
Moniz added that the US is not blind to Iran’s violent agenda. “It’s not that we think that Iran has changed and its leaders want to create peace and harmony. I do not think that Iran is a part of the solution. Perhaps in the future if it changes its behavior.”
However, he continued, he believes that the Iran nuclear deal will reduce the need for a military attack. “We understand that the military option is always an option for Israel and the US, but the agreement makes the military option less necessary. But Israel has a right to self-defense, we understand that.”
The US will uphold its existing agreements to provide Israel with defense aid and weapons, enabling it to keep its military edge in the region, he said. “This is something that is in legislation. It is about what we sell to Israel to secure the lead, and how we monitor arms sales to the region so that Israel maintains its superiority.”
Moniz denied reports that the US would begin selling advanced military technology to Gulf states as well, saying, “There will be no sale of F-35 [jet]s to any other country in the region except Israel.”
He added that the US will not leave Israel out of the loop when it comes to intelligence on Iran’s nuclear abilities. “US intelligence will continue to check Iranian compliance with the agreement with laser accuracy, and any attempt to deceive or mislead the supervision will be revealed. The goal is to provide policymakers with the right information and share it with the Israelis,” he said.
The official stressed that despite political tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration, “Defense relations have never been so strong.”
The US and Israeli militaries work closely together, Moniz said. “Our relationship remains the cornerstone of our approach to the Middle East. Our relations are unprecedented in terms of their depth. From the level of colonel in the army to the highest levels of the military and political leadership, they are in weekly contact with their Israeli counterparts.”