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It is extremely rare that a foreign Head of State addresses our United States Congress without the consent of the President. In dramatic fashion to standing ovations, the Prime Minster of Israel – Benjamin Netanyahu- made a speech seeking to influence the U.S. Congress yesterday. In his opening remarks the Prime Minster graciously gave thanks and sincere appreciation to the President, the Congress, both parties and the United States in their magnanimous support of Israel throughout its 70 year history, emphasizing the most recent support from President Obama. In this support, the Prime Minster highlighted the development, deployment and success of the Iron Dome System for which the United States has provided over $1 billion of investment and continues to support annually and during times of crisis.

The purpose of the Prime Minister’s remarks to Congress was to gather support for the termination of the upcoming deal between the United States and Iran that would restrict Iran’s development of nuclear weapons in exchange for an easing of the sanctions currently in place by the international community. Mr. Netanyahu attacked the premise of this upcoming deal, and used North Korea as precedent.

Though the details and intricacies of that deal are not known, the overall assumption is that the deal would not include permanent destruction of any of Iran’s current nuclear facilities. These are coveted capabilities for Iran, which as a signature on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has the right to have centrifuges and nuclear facilities just like the other 188 countries in the world that have ratified this treaty. It is of note that Israel is one of only four countries, India, Pakistan and North Korea that has not chosen to accede or comply with this Treaty.

The Prime Minster made an articulate case to forbid Iran any acquisition of nuclear weapons which President Obama the United States Congress unanimously agree with. One of his premises was to note North Korea who also had sanctions and deals with the United States to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, but it did so nonetheless. As the potential upcoming deal is assumed to not include the dismantlement or destruction of Iran’s current nuclear facilities and centrifuges, Mr. Netanyahu’s main arguments rested on Iran retaining nuclear breakout time of one year or less even if they accepted and abided to the upcoming deal, let alone if they choose to cheat and not abide by it.

“That’s why this deal is so bad: it doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”- Prime Minster Netanyahu

It is interesting that in his response to Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, despite holding an opposing viewpoint, President Obama expressed that we would also prefer to have a no deal with Iran than a bad deal:

“So the bottom line is this:  We don’t yet have a deal.  It may be that Iran cannot say yes to a good deal.  I have repeatedly said that I would rather have no deal than a bad deal. But if we’re successful in negotiating, then, in fact, this will be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Nothing else comes close.  Sanctions won’t do it.  Even military action would not be as successful as the deal that we have put forward.”         – President Obama

From his remarks, it is clear that Mr. Netanyahu is hoping to galvanize bi-partisan, veto-proof legislation in the United States Senate to circumvent an upcoming proposed deal with Iran by the Obama Administration. Alternatively, President Obama is hoping to close a deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and could possibly the Congressional opposition fomented by Prime Minister’s remarks as leverage to gain greater concessions from Iran. A deal that may have been far more effective with Russia as the first term of this Presidency failed to reset those relations. Yet neither the Prime Minster nor the President offered a real credible alternative in the event that their preferred course of actions fail to prevent Iranian nuclear acquisition.

On the same day in the U.S. Congress, at a more austere gathering, a real credible alternative was being implemented as the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey testified to the Senate Armed Service Committee on the 2016 Budget request for the Department of Defense.

“For Fiscal Year 2016, a $9.6 billion total investment in missile defense helps protect the U.S. homeland, deployed forces, and our allies and partners.  This includes $8.1 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, $1.6 billion of which will help ensure the reliability of U.S. ground-based interceptors, which are currently sited at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The budget also continues to support the President’s timeline for implementing the European Phased Adaptive Approach.” – Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

Regardless of which course of action is chosen, missile defenses must be a part any strategy to deal with Iran moving forward. Any strategy to prevent a nuclear Iran can fail, but by putting forward missile and rocket defense systems around Iran with our Allies, in Israel, in Europe and for the United States homeland, we can help deter any breakout capability by Iran, and nullify the effects a nuclear-armed Iran would have on the region. With active defenses matched with offensive capability in the region against Iranian missiles, Iran’s regional rivals would be less likely to seek their own nuclear deterrents. Furthermore, it is clear that any deal made would not include limits on Iran’s ballistic missile development. Iran is already armed with a vast arsenal of conventionally armed ballistic missiles that pose a major threat to the region, Israel and Europe whether they go nuclear or not.

With missile defense only receiving 1.6% of the Department of Defense’s budget in its FY2016 request there needs to be more emphasis, urgency and support to provide the necessary defensive systems to negate Iran and stabilize this region, as the United States has done with East Asia with a nuclear-armed North Korea. Israel has requested 485 million from the U.S. for its missile defense programs, $300 million above the level requested by the President in FY2016’s defense budget. Two percent of the defense budget should be going towards our missile defenses, and $500 million annually for Israel missile and rocket defenses paid for in part by the Foreign Military Financing program.

Riki Ellison

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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.