World attention is drawn to Iran and its projection of power against the United States and its allies to not capitulate, just as two U.S. BMD ships of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG) sailed into the Persian Gulf. Iran is leveraging its oil resources and the market’s dependency on them to project its remaining economic power. Iran further supports discord and dissent throughout Arab nations and Israel to consolidate power by disabling unity against itself supporting rebellious movements within the Middle East. Iran’s primary projection of power remains its missile development, deployment, and exports for combat use in its proxy groups. The Iranian missile boats are clearly defining one of the domains they project power from. Iran has relentlessly pursued missile technology since the early 1980s when it realized that it would need a counter to Iraq’s weapons during the Iran-Iraq War.
“In 1985, the then-head of Iran’s Parliament, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, led a high-level delegation to Libya, Syria, North Korea, and China. As a result of the trip, Iran obtained Scud missiles from Libya and North Korea, and later acquired rocket components and know-how from both North Korea and China. Iran’s first batch of Scuds (known as Scud Bs) arrived from Libya in 1985. These single-stage, nuclear-capable, Soviet-origin missiles use liquid fuel and can fly about 280-300 km when carrying a 770-1,000 kg warhead. Before long, Iran had depleted its small supply. It then turned to North Korea in hope of finding a new supplier. Tehran offered to help finance Pyongyang’s missile program in exchange for technology transfer and an option to buy North Korean missiles as soon as they came off the production line.” — A History of Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program: Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, May 1, 2012
Iran has since developed layers of ranges that can strike Europe and all of the Middle East, a space launch capability to deliver satellites, and a 360-degree missile capability with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and cruise missiles to strike Gulf Coalition Council (GCC) members. Iran has set the precedent for the use of ballistic missiles as a cheaper, effective, and defendable projection of its military power for deterrence purposes and posturing itself against neighbors and western powers that it feels it is threatened by. Working in tandem with North Korea to develop its missile arsenal, Iran’s ultimate quest is for a nuclear ICBM capability that can strike the United States and its western allies. It is well within reason and logic that Iran with its North Korean mentorship can become a nuclear ICBM power very quickly, once out of the JCPOA. This goal is Iran’s holy grail and key lynchpin for its ultimate survival and negotiation with the west, as seen in its most recent nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). North Korea has set the precedent for Iran with its own nuclear ICBM capability to stand off the United States and negotiate with the President of the United States on the world stage.
Due to the reality of Iran’s proliferation of ballistic missiles, the United States has put forward the largest foreign military sales of missile defense systems into the Middle East region, including a $5 billion investment in Israel, and has a significant deployment of its U.S. missile defense systems. This includes Patriot Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Battalions, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships, and TPY-2 X-Band Radars into the region. There are no better 360-degree layered missile defense system, from space to sea, in the world today than the U.S. Aegis BMD ships deployed in the Gulf, the Red Sea, and Indian Ocean to defend against Iranian missiles over water, over land, and through space. The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group deployed in the seas around the Middle East is extremely well defended from Iran with its Aegis BMD escort ships. These U.S. actions of deploying missile defense systems serve to stabilize the region by countering and negating the growing number of Iranian ballistic missiles, which are successfully used today by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who have had hundreds of combat intercepts against the Iranian supported Houthis Rebels in Yemen. The continued development and proliferation of ballistic missiles by Iran was one of the main drivers to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.
In Europe, under President Barack Obama, the United States and NATO led to deploy a missile defense capability of two Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, four U.S. Aegis BMD ships based in Rota, Spain, a TPY-2 Radar in Turkey, and a separate and specific Ballistic Missile Defense Operations Center (BMDOC) command and control system in Germany. These set of deployments and upgrades is called the European Phased Adaptive Approach and is designed to defend NATO and Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles and is in its final stage with the upcoming operationalization of the Poland Aegis Ashore site. Today, the Romanian Aegis Ashore site, operational on May 12, 2016, is being upgraded. To supplement the Aegis Ashore capability it provides, the United States deployed a THAAD battery in early May at that location to best defend Europe from the current Iranian ballistic missile threat. The THAAD system brings a mobile land based upper tier layer that has inherent future launch-on-remote capability that links into Patriot systems, which are shared by NATO allies, and is being developed and deployed in the Republic of Korea with the U.S. THAAD and U.S. Patriot systems there for a seamless and layered defense against ballistic missiles.
Due to the grim reality today of increasing Iranian escalations and United States response to those, which could easily ramp up to conflict, missile defense capabilities are critical in the Middle East for stability and peace to deter Iran’s power projection, very important in Europe as implemented with the EPAA, and has to be now better addressed for the United States homeland. Iran presses the requirements for more Aegis BMD ships, THAAD batteries, and 360-degree land-based missile defense and future capabilities in the Middle East that can be interoperable for the United States and its Allies. Increasing battle space and the physics for a third Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) site location in the north eastern part of the United States, along with a forward based long-range discrimination radar is the best insurance for deterrence and defense of the U.S. population against Iranian nuclear ICBMs as it is today against North Korean nuclear ICBMs. There is rudimentary minimal U.S. missile defense capability today against Iran from the current 40 GBIs out of Fort Greely, Alaska, as well as a potential under layer of Aegis BMD ships and THAAD batteries – that have yet to be proven against ICBMs – but without long-range discrimination radars, that without moving forward on would leave the east and southeast of America at risk. Having an additional U.S. homeland capability and capacity would be exponentially better if it is planned ahead of the Iranian ICBM nuclear capability.
We cannot afford lives, national treasure, and the long lasting unpredictable consequences to go to war against Iran. Having deployed operational missile defense systems in capacity and capability with our allies to negate and deter Iran’s biggest and most capable projection of power is one of the key critical elements in preventing going to war, keeping peace and stability in this region, which would cherish and protect lives – American, allied, Iranian, and the innocent.
Missile defense makes the world a safer place.