At the height of the U.S. Congress’s deliberations on the Iran nuclear deal in Washington D.C., we took the opportunity to assess the direct ramifications on air and missile defense to the Middle East region around the Arabian Gulf from Iran today. Whether one agrees with the Iran nuclear deal or not, it is going to be a reality, and a stronger Iran will result. With its increasing power, Iran will be an even more significant player than it is today in the Arabian Gulf region and the broader Middle East. With this upcoming situation, our nation and our Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners must work as a team to mitigate the increasing risk of instability in the region due to Iran’s escalating projection of power. These critical measures to reduce our risk towards Iran and share the burden of needed resources with our GCC allies in cooperation, integration and efficiency are prohibited today by State and Defense Department polices of President Obama’s Administration.
Yesterday, in our sixth Congressional Roundtable: Arabian Missile Defense in an Evolving Middle East, MDAA brought together Middle East and missile defense experts to analyze how the Iranian missile threat will likely amplify in coming years, and how U.S. and GCC missile defense policy and architecture must evolve to counter it to maintain stability and peace in the region.
Our panel of speakers included former Missile Defense Agency Deputy Director Brig Gen Kenneth Todorov; former U.S. Director of the USCENTCOM Integrated Air and Missile Defense Center of Excellence in Abu Dhabi, UAE Mr. Michael Tronolone; the Director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Mr. Michael Eisenstadt; and a special presentation on Iranian missile development by Mr. Uzi Rubin, Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
The following are some of the key points we learned:
Despite growing raw missile defense capability by both the United States and the GCC countries, we are likely less prepared today to conduct major BMD operations than even 13 years ago at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some reasons for this are:
On a strategic level, the Iran nuclear deal has little relevance to the ongoing mission of regional missile defense, and our priorities remain unchanged. The United States has committed to regional security and countering Iran’s influence and capabilities must be maintained. The threat of Iran’s ballistic missiles is unchanged by the deal.
A shared GCC early warning system is the most opportune place to start in addressing the goal of greater interoperability. It is both a valuable and doable near term goal, and will set a solid foundation for further cooperation.
We must look on a larger scale to not just missile defense, but integrated air and missile defense in the region. The GCC faces more than just ballistic missiles; cruise missiles and rockets also pose a major threat. Anti-air warfare capabilities such JLENS, and incorporating the U.S. Navy more into an integrated defense posture would help in addressing the holistic threat.
In addition to currently existing capabilities, we should also keep an eye on future capabilities that can help overcome the cost curve as the Iranian missile threat increases. Technologies such as rail gun and directed energy provide promising alternatives to more expensive kinetic, hit-to-kill technologies, and should invested in. Nevertheless, these technologies are still some ways off and kinetic intercept systems will remain the cornerstone of missile defense capabilities for years, if not decades, to come.
Here is a summary of recommendations offered by our panel:
The threat from Iran is not going away because of the nuclear deal, and the outline provided by our speakers provides a sound strategic roadmap for moving forward. Our main challenges in this realm are not technological. They are political.President Obama and GCC policy makers must have the will and courage to change direction and clear the policy and political roadblocks to a more secure Arabian Gulf as the good, the bad, and perhaps the ugly of the Iran nuclear deal gets implemented.
Chairman & Founder
Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance
Listen to full audio from the event here.