New US Defense Chief Outlines Views on Iran

New US Defense Chief Outlines Views on Iran New US Defense Chief Outlines Views on Iran

In written answers to a set of policy questions which had been submitted to the new US defense secretary before a confirmation vote on his nomination, he outlined his views about Iran, according to a transcript of his remarks posted on the website of the US Senate.  

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to confirm Ashton Carter as US President Barack Obama's next secretary of defense, Reuters reported.

Asked about the elements of a nuclear agreement with Iran that he considers critical to ensuring that it is a "good" deal for US national security interests, Carter said, "In my view, a 'good' deal is one that resolves the international community's concerns with Iran's nuclear program and prevents it from acquiring a nuclear weapon."      

Iran denies the allegation that it may have been seeking to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian program, saying its nuclear activities are solely for peaceful applications, including power generation.  

"The best way to do that is through a comprehensive solution that, when implemented, will ensure that, as a practical matter, Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon and that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively and verifiably peaceful. Any deal… must include tight constraints and strict curbs on Iran's nuclear program," Carter said, adding, "And finally, it must require robust monitoring and transparency measures to maximize the international community's ability to detect quickly any attempt by Iran to break out overtly or covertly.

"Any sanctions relief in exchange should be phased and tied to verifiable actions on Iran's part. Such relief should be structured to be easily reversed so that sanctions could be quickly re-imposed if Iran were to break its commitments."

  Friction Points

On Iran's activities in the region, including its support for Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in the West Bank, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the new defense secretary said, "Countering (alleged) Iranian destabilizing activities must be an important priority. Regardless of the outcome of nuclear negotiations, I firmly believe that the United States must also counter these destabilizing regional activities, including Iran's (alleged) support to… militant groups. If confirmed, I would work to ensure the Department is focused on these issues."

On the possible friction points between US and Iranian interests in Iraq and Syria if the tide of the so-called Islamic State (IS) terrorist group is pushed back in the two crisis-hit Arab countries, Carter said, "In Syria, I believe that Iran's continued support for Assad and instability will cause continued friction between the US and Iran. The US has an interest in a stable, united, and inclusive Iraq with support from all of Iraq's communities.

"I have concerns about the (alleged) sectarian nature of Iran's activities in Iraq. The United States must continue to make clear to the Iraqi government that Iran's approach in Iraq undermines the needed political inclusion for all Iraqi communities, which is required to ultimately defeat ISIL (another acronym for IS which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant)."

In addition, he said he strongly supported Obama's view that "all options should be on the table" to prevent a nuclear Iran.