Arms deal with Middle East allies signal to Iran: Hagel

TEL AVIV Sun Apr 21, 2013 10:58am EDT

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during his visit at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during his visit at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem April 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday a $10 billion arms deal planned with Arab and Israeli allies sent a "very clear signal" to Iran that military options remain on the table over its nuclear program.

"The bottom line is that Iran is a threat, a real threat," Hagel, who arrived in Israel on Sunday on his first visit there as defense secretary, told reporters on his plane.

"The Iranians must be prevented from developing that capacity to build a nuclear weapon and deliver it," he said.

Hagel was due to meet Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon on Monday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, with little progress reported at talks this month between Iran and world powers.

The first stop on Hagel's week-long Middle East trip came two days after the Pentagon said it was finalizing a deal to strengthen the militaries of Israel and two of Iran's key rivals - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The deal includes the sale of KC-135 aerial refueling tankers, anti-air defense missiles and tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey troop transport planes to Israel as well as the sale of 25 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to the UAE.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia would also be allowed to purchase weapons with so-called "stand-off" capabilities enabling them to engage an enemy with precision at a distance.

Asked if the arms deal sent a message that the military option was on the table if Tehran moved to build a nuclear weapon, Hagel said: "I don't think there's any question that that's another very clear signal to Iran."

But he added the military option had been "very clear to Iran for some time" and said the arms deal was a continuation of U.S. policy to maintain Israel's so-called "qualitative military edge" in the region, a general reference to the supply of advanced U.S.-made weaponry and technology to the Jewish state.

Iran denies Western allegations it is seeking to build nuclear arms, saying its efforts aim at electricity generation.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has repeatedly voiced impatience with diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's enrichment of uranium, saying they should be coupled with a credible military threat.

Both Israel and the United States have said all options remain on the table for dealing with any nuclear threat.


Hagel, who faced resistance during his Senate confirmation hearing this year from lawmakers who questioned his support for Israel, said part of the purpose of his visit was to reassure Israelis "the United States is committed to their security".

Asked about renewed debate in the Israeli media that Israel might have to strike Iran by itself, Hagel said "every sovereign nation has the right to defend itself and protect itself".

"Iran presents a threat in its nuclear program and Israel will make the decisions that Israel must make to protect itself and defend itself," he said.

But Hagel added the United States and other countries believe there is still time for diplomacy and tough international sanctions to have an impact.

"The military option is one option that remains on the table, must remain on the table," he said. "But military options, I think most of us feel, should be the last option."

After Israel, Hagel will visit Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. His trip comes amid concerns about regional stability due to Iran's nuclear program, the rocky transition to civilian rule in Egypt and civil war in Syria.

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Jason Webb)

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Comments (23)
FRPSR wrote:
Israel maintains the right to create the atmosphere which makes aparthate appear reasonable and prudent . The bellicose talk founded on the politics of the leading state that assuming a place as hegemon is possible , so they act as they believe , and acceptable to everyone who is blind to the rights of the weak , weaker .
Israel steps to unquestioned military master of the middle east was abruptly halted by the startling defense of the Lebanese militias which stopped the Israeli incursion and then defeated them . Like any bruised bully Israel retreated , and claimed to have achieved their goals of that nebulous term , “security” . Meanwhile the hysterical claims of existential threats are raised over the dubious nature of their reconstructed history . In this history the savage invasion of Lebanon was a peaceful incursion with troops tanks and sophisticated technology , to peacefully develop an security zone .
Iran meanwhile has supported schools that teach children how to live , and become citizens of their own . They provide schools , medicine , and self defense against hegemons . During the development of these policies they have never strayed from self defense . They have developed allies with the earnest desire to maintain that friendship because of the things they provide that don’t go boom , not the other way round .
The USA and its “ally” Israel could learn a valuable lesson here , but don’t worry , they won’t .

Apr 21, 2013 7:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
crod526 wrote:
Don’t get fooled by the rhetoric, who do you think arms Hezbollah and the anti Iraqui government fighters it’s Iran. The US also provides a lot of no military aid, who is building roads and schools in Afghanistan.
The facts are that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons and has voiced many times that wants to destroy Israel. Israel is not without blame in the Middle East but when the leader of a nation says publicly many imes that he is out to destroy another then that country should not be allowed nuclear weapons and should be told in no uncertain terms that it will be stopped at all costs.

Apr 21, 2013 7:56am EDT  --  Report as abuse
mustafaspeaks wrote:
The UAE and the KSA don’t actually use the arms America
sells them—it mainly just corrodes out in the desert.
The point is to get the cash from these family-run
establishments into the pockets of the US arms industry
as a form of political “protection money,” i.e. the US
government and its military will protect these “friendly
Arabs” and their oil for a fee, paid under the guise of
“defense” against the latest common enemy. Israel on the
other hand actually uses its US-made arms to kill and
repress other oil-less Arabs, so I guess that’s at least
less cynical.

Apr 21, 2013 9:17am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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