Pentagon chief in Israel over Iran nuclear deal

Ahead of his visit, Carter said an intervention in the Islamic Republic is still possible

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U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived Monday to Israel on the first Cabinet-level U.S. visit to Israel since the Iran nuclear deal was announced.

Ash Carter, who was welcomed by his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon, is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Yaalon thanked Carter for his contributions to Israeli security and said Israel appreciates its friendship with the U.S.

The Israeli defense forces held a standard welcoming ceremony for Carter and he then went into a closed meeting with Yaalon.

Ahead of his visit, the U.S. defense secretary had said that the Iran nuclear deal does not mean military action is off the table when it comes to stopping Tehran from obtaining an atomic bomb.

"One of the reasons why this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military option," Carter told reporters on board his flight to the Jewish state.

"We are preserving and continually improving" such a military option should Iran violate the terms of the agreement, Carter said as he kicked off a trip to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Israel has been strongly critical of the agreement struck this week between its arch-foe Iran and six world powers that would see Tehran curb its nuclear program in return for a gradual lifting of sanctions.

Netanyahu has argued that the deal clears the way for Iran to build nuclear weapons that would threaten Israel's existence and ultimately diminish U.S. and global security.

Even as tensions between the U.S. and Israel have grown over how to contain Iran's nuclear program has grown, the U.S.-Israel defense relationship has deepened in recent years.

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