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Dear Members and Friends,

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:

  • Iran will likely continue investing heavily in its ballistic and cruise missile forces. These weapons provide Iran a reliable way of deterring attack, exerting influence, and intimidating the region. Iran’s other means of accomplishing these goals, terrorism and proxy warfare, have significant limitations and are much less reliable than the threat of long-range strikes from ballistic and cruise missiles.
  • Iran’s ballistic missile forces are currently limited by their poor accuracy, but Iran is making strides to overcome this limitation in two key ways. Iran’s growing production of missiles suggests that Iran will use mass attacks and saturation to overcome missile defenses and make up for limited accuracy. Iran is also making advancements in the accuracy of its missiles, moving towards GPS guidance systems for its missiles. Such advancements would allow Iran to target specific key infrastructure and military targets with much greater precision.
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:
  • GCC missile defense sensor capabilities remain largely stove-piped. Internal political conflicts and current U.S. policy have prevented the creation of a unified early warning system.
  • Despite unprecedented cooperation between the GCC on Iran, Yemen and other regional issues, the United States has continued dealing with the countries of the GCC on a bilateral level. This has hindered the ability to form a more unified command and control system between the United States and the countries of the GCC.
  • There has been zero growth in the maintenance capacity for the Patriot and other BMD systems. Maintenance depots and spare parts for these GCC and deployed U.S. assets remains in the United States. Interceptor systems that require spare parts must come from the United States, and then returned to the theatre. This process can take 12-24 months, meaning that significant interceptor capability is unavailable for use at any given time.
  • Policy confusion among military leaders in seriously hindering the ability for U.S. and GCC militaries to conduct joint training, undermining the overall effort for better cooperation and interoperability.
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 U.S. must streamline and clarify its policies regarding integration of between U.S. and GCC missile defense systems, particularly in the area of shared sensors.
  • A regional depot that can provide spare parts and maintenance to deployed systems in the region is needed now.
  • The United States must move to dealing with the GCC as a holistic alliance, instead of bilaterally, and work towards a common command and control.
  • U.S. policy must be clarified to better facilitate joint training operations between the United States and GCC countries.
  • The United States and GCC should broaden their strategy and work towards an integrated air and missile defense system that addresses the broadest scope of threats possible.
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.
Riki Sig/WhiteRiki Ellison

Chairman & Founder

Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance

Listen to full audio from the event here.

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.