US President Barack Obama has committed in writing to increase American military aid to Israel for the development of anti-missile systems, as well as to accelerate cooperation on the development of tunnel detection technologies.
"Our governments should identify ways to accelerate the ongoing collaborative research and development for tunnel detection and mapping technologies to provide Israel new capabilities to detect and destroy tunnels because they could be used to threaten Israeli civilians," Obama said in a letter dated August 19, published in full by the New York Times on Friday, to Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat in the House of Representatives who announced that he will vote to approve the accord.
In the letter, Obama promises to increase cooperation with Israel and with the United States' allies in the Gulf in the fight against Iran's efforts to destabilize the region by supporting the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"My administration is prepared to enhance the already intensive joint efforts underway to identify and counter the range of shared threats we face in the region, as well as increase missile defense funding so that Israel and the United States can accelerate the co-development of the Arrow-3 and David's Sling missile defense systems," he writes.
He also notes that he has "proposed to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we begin a process aimed at further strengthening our efforts to confront conventional and asymmetric threats."
The American president further states his administration intends to continue talks with Israel on a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on foreign military financing that "would cement for the next decade our unprecedented levels of military assistance."
On top of receiving over $20.5 billion in foreign military financing since 2009, Israel is due to receive another $3.1 billion installment of foreign military aid from the US, Obama states.
He notes his administration invested an additional #3 billion in Iron Dome, as well as other missile-defense systems.
The president keeps detailing American military assistance to Israel, saying Israel has been provided with "unparalleled access to some of the most advanced military equipment in the world, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will be delivered in 2016." Israel, Obama says, is the only Middle East nation to which the US has sold the fifth-generation aircraft.
"More recently, I authorized an unprecedented $1.879 billion multi-year munitions resupply package that will provide Israel continued access to state-of-the-art precision-guided munitions, including penetrating munitions (the BLU-113 super penetrator), Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits, and air-to-air missiles, all of which will give the Israel government access to the most sophisticated arsenal for years to come," Obama adds. "I also have offered Israel the V-22 Osprey - a hallmark US air platform - which the Israeli government has chosen not to procure at this time."
Military option to remain available
The letter mostly aims to assuage concerns by senators and congressmen about the deal aimed to curb its nuclear program, and to that end Obama vows the United States will respond firmly if Iran fails to honor the accord.
"We have a wide array of unilateral and multilateral responses that we can employ if Iran fails to meets its commitments," Obama said.
Obama reiterated his view that the accord reached last month in Vienna is good for the United States, Israel and the Middle East in general.
The president also insisted, as he has many times, that all options remain on the table if Iran does not abide by the accord.
The agreement lifts economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions and other measures designed to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
"All of the options available to the United States – including the military option – will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond," Obama said.
Obama also promises to use a multinational commission policing the accord to block Iranian procurement of nuclear-related technology.
The letter was released as opponents of the accord wage a fierce campaign against it ahead of a vote in Congress in September.
Opponents say the accord goes too easy on Iran, by not allowing spot inspections of nuclear sites or forcing it to halt support of militant groups, for instance.
So far only two Democratic senators – Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez – have come out publicly against the accord.
According to a Reuters tally, Obama is eight votes away from capturing one-third of the Senate, or 34 senators, with about a month remaining to find the additional support he needs.
The Bipartisan Policy Center, which is tracking lawmakers' positions, said on Thursday that 69 House members now support the Iran deal, with another 140 in the 435-member chamber still undeclared. Obama would need the support of at least 146 House members to safeguard the agreement in that chamber.
In days ahead, much attention will focus on senators Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, both senior Democrats from Maryland who have not yet staked out a position.
It is unlikely that opponents can muster the two-thirds majority they would to override a certain Obama veto if an initial vote by lawmakers rejects the accord.
Nadler said Friday he supports it.
It is not perfect, but it "gives us the best chance of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," he said in a statement.
Nadler said he had reached this conclusion from his perspective as "an American Jew who is both a Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel."
The accord, vehemently opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has sharply divided the US Jewish community.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this report.