US secretary of defense Ashton Carter arrived at Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Friday on an unannounced visit, to meet with Kurdistan’s Regional Government (KRG) head Massoud Brazani.
Erbil marks the fifth stop for the Pentagon chief’s Middle East tour, after Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq’s Baghdad.
Carter represents the US in effort to reassure its allies in the region in regard to the finally completely Iran nuclear deal.
Kurdistan in Northern Iraq has proved to be an important ally and a frequent military collaborator with the US in their fight against ISIS.
Iraq’s capital Baghdad was the first unannounced destination for the Pentagon chief, which is his first visit to Iraq, since he has taken over his position at the Pentagon in February.
He focused on the progress of political conciliation between the Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilizations Forces, who control the central government and the Sunni minority.
Carter started his tour in Israel’s Tel Aviv on Monday, in which he was warmly welcomed by his Israeli counterpart.
The Pentagon chief met at Israel’s defence headquarters with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, followed by a meeting on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has strongly criticised the Iran deal.
Netanyahu described the nuclear agreement with Iran as a "historic mistake" which would open way for the country to produce nuclear weapons.
Carter said that the option of military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons still exists, despite the nuclear agreement sealed with the country last week. Carter’s comments were likely made in an effort to calm Israel, the main US ally in the Middle East.
Next came Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, in which Carter met with Saudi King Salman, and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the defense minister and King Salman’s son.
Carter and his Saudi counterparts discussed training special forces, cyber security, anti-missile defense and freedom of navigation in the strategic Red Sea and Gulf waterways, an American defence official said.
The Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia is a traditional rival of the Shiite-dominated Iran. The kingdom is equally worried Tehran could still be able to develop an atomic bomb despite the limitations imposed by the deal.
While Israel and the gulf countries addressed the dangers they see imposed by Iranian influence, Carter has other concerns to be discussed on his agenda, including the war against ISIS, which is consistently committing unspeakable atrocities in many countries including Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Jordan came next for Carter, he met with military personnel who are part of the US-led coalition battling the armed insurgency ISIS, since last year. Saudi Arabia and Jordan both belong to that coalition.
"We will continue to work with Israel and other partners in this region to counter the danger from Iran, even as we do the same with respect to ISIL [ISIS]," Carter said, when he spoke on Tuesday in Jordan.