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A satellite view of Ain Al Assad Airbase in Iraq on January 8, 2020 (Photo: Planet Labs and MIIS).

Iran’s calculated strategic way of deescalating a no win confrontation with the United States was to send a clear demonstration of its sophisticated ballistic missiles in volume and depth over 600 miles with precise targeting that overflew U.S. critical assets of lives and capabilities and instead landed on intended benign and non-fatal targets outside of and inside of two U.S. bases in Iraq. Iran flaunted its missile invincibility to strike at will with a combination of liquid and solid fueled ballistic missiles to specifically show its targeting capability and distance on undefended U.S. sites in Iraq. Iran’s distance and missile precision of Circular Error Probability (CEP) of 10 meters that was displayed with these missiles and puts all U.S. bases in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region as targetable, on notice, and at risk. This marks the third live Iranian combat launch of ballistic missiles into Syria and Iraq since the end of the Iraq-Iranian War. Unlike previous strikes, Iran was quick to take immediate credit publicly and officially for the strike of its missile firings into U.S. bases in Iraq. Iran’s missile testing of a Shahab-3 in July 2019 and the use cruise missiles and unmanned drones to attack the Saudi Arabian oil refinery in September 2019, where multiple cruise missiles and drones hit the exact same spots, demonstrate technical prowess and evolution of its weapons of choice.

In response to the Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, President Trump was clear to state in a speech at the White House, “No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces and an early warning system that worked very well. I salute the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform.”

The U.S. shares early warning sensors and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data with allies in the Gulf region – especially in Iraq – that is extensive, reliable, and proven to predict Iranian ballistic missile launches before launch and extrapolate their intended targets once launched to provide multiple validations of actual launch and targets, which is passed to the region and specific bases prior to attack to provide limited time to evacuate or to find cover and safety. This is outstanding intelligence gathering and dispersal that without any integrated air and missile defense capability was effective and coupled with Iran’s intended demonstration of precision and intent not to kill Americans and Iraqis.

The early warning sensors of the Iranian missile launches would include persistent overhead space infrared satellites, airborne sensors (manned and unmanned), as well as land-based and sea-based sensors from the region. This information was fused and sent to Colorado for validation and back to the Air Operations Center (AOCs) in the region for validation and then to the bases that are targeted, with redundant systems to supplement any break of communication. These same early warning systems of sensors are vital to queuing active deployed missile defense systems to defend and defeat incoming ballistic missiles at these bases and as some of these missiles flew near GCC countries and U.S. bases that have deployed integrated air and missile defense systems would have been well aware of these Iranian missiles. There were no ballistic missile defenses deployed to these targeted bases in Iraq and thus their reliance and dependence on early warning is vital for survival and safety as it is for all U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan with the constant rocket and mortar threats.

Directly of consequence to the President and Congress is the high demand of U.S. missile defense systems to provide defense for critical assets in the region and that the U.S. has a finite limited capacity of manpower to operate and systems to deploy – composed of 15 Patriot missile defense battalions and seven Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries that are already deployed globally to defend critical U.S. assets in Japan, Guam, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Europe, and with a Department of Defense Global Response Force (GRF) – there is not enough missile defense systems and manpower to defend all of the critical U.S. assets and it is clear we need more systems and manpower.

The Iranian strategic missile message leveraged the lack of ballistic missile defenses and demonstrated precise salvos to oversaturate, with a 31% failure rate, and target any U.S. base or ships under 600 miles from Iran. Compounding to this is the Iranian use of long distance, over the horizon, and 360 degree cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that were used against Saudi Arabia last September in combat. U.S. deterrent forces located in the GCC have to address defending against all of these Iranian missile threats in saturated raids to stand as a survivable and effective deterrent force in this region. This real and complex missile threat scenario is much further advanced by China and Russia and has to be addressed additionally in the Pacific and European theaters of operations for U.S. and allied deterrent forces in those regions. Iran has now forced the development of capabilities, existing and new, for integrated air and missile defense that is required for the United States and allies to have effective deterrence forces globally. Also the Iranian missile demonstration has set a precedent and a strategy to the other bad actor states in the world, which is that the strategic value and proliferation of missiles is an effective tool against a superpower.

Our objective with Iran is to put them and keep them in the box of international norms, rules & order, and abiding by international law so valuable lives and resources are not wasted or continually added in a never ending engagement. So both American and allies involved in this region can be focused on bigger global challenges to their nations.

De-escalation for negotiation or intimidation for negotiation, either tactic requires a strong effective military deterrent force that has to be defended.

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Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.