Pentagon chief: Military will 'redouble' efforts after nuclear deal

Pentagon chief: Military will 'redouble' efforts after nuclear deal
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Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday the U.S. would "redouble" its efforts to counteract malign activities by Iran in the Middle East and reassure regional allies, in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. 

In an op-ed in USA Today, Carter urged Congress to support the deal, arguing that it would remove the Middle East's "greatest danger" — a nuclear Iran, and be more durable than a military strike. 

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However, he also acknowledged that the nuclear deal would not address Iran's "extensive malign activities in the region." 

But, he said, the deal would not limit the U.S. military's "important work to check those destabilizing activities and stand by our friends in the Middle East," which would "redouble." 

"Indeed, as I told some of the more than 35,000 American troops in the region when I visited last month, the United States military will remain 'full speed ahead,'" he said. 

He added that the U.S. would maintain a "robust military posture" that would include its most sophisticated ground, maritime and air and ballistic missile defense assets, as well as the ability to quickly surge overwhelming additional forces. 

For example, he said, the U.S. has made available "its most advanced capabilities, such as the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter." In addition, the U.S. has offered Gulf allies "sophisticated defense equipment, and help to improve their ground special operations forces," he said. 

"Deal or no deal all this work will continue, and, in fact, it will redouble," he said. 

Two retired four-star military generals and critics of the Iran deal agree that the deal will require the U.S. to do more to counteract Iran's malign activities in the region but say they worry the U.S. will not be able to do so under shrinking defense budgets.  

"We're going to have to be more committed to a coalition involvement in the Middle East to defend against what is inevitably going to be a growing Iranian threat," retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Wald, former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. 

But, he added, in reference to cuts that will slash the military's budget by $500 billion over the next decade, "It's contrary to the sequestration direction we're going." 

Indeed, the U.S. Navy will have a two-month gap of not having an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf area this fall due to a backlog of needed maintainance on some carriers in its fleet, worsened by sequestration. 

Meanwhile, Wald said, the deal would allow Iran to have access to significant resources and the ability to improve and modernize their military. 

Retired Marine Gen. James Conway, former Marine Corps commandant, who was also on the call, said he shared those concerns and the concern that Iran could gain hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade from increased oil revenue. 

"We believe the [deal] will in a sense unleash Iran in a conventional sense in ways that we have not previously seen," he said. 

"We will be in comparatively weaker position to do something if we must in 10 or 15 years," he added, referring to the duration of the deal's limits on centrifuges and uranium production.  

The two retired generals are co-chairs on the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs' Gemunder Center Iran Strategy Council, which published a report this week on the Iran deal's impact on the security of the region.