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August 22, 2022

The Senate Is Dropping the Ball on Middle East Air Defense

By John O'Malley

Iran’s hesitancy to agree to new nuclear deal terms has elevated the need for a capable and durable regional security framework in the Middle East. The aim of countering Iran is evident in both the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC)-marked 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bills, which jointly advocate for an integrated air and missile defense architecture between regional partner states to protect civilians from “cruise and ballistic missiles, manned and unmanned aerial systems, and rocket attacks from Iran and groups linked to Iran.” This objective is perfectly logical, given the Islamic Republic’s propensity for exporting terrorism and instability throughout the region, but the Senate NDAA’s legislative provision threatens to undermine the effort to build an integrated defense before the policy gets off the ground.

Establishing a regional security framework in the Middle East would be a breathtaking sign of progress, and the Senate cannot afford to trip out of the starting blocks.

The Senate’s NDAA language, taken almost directly from the DEFEND Act, the bipartisan bill introduced by the House and Senate Abraham Accords Caucuses, directs the Secretary of Defense to identify and recruit “countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt” for involvement in implementing defense capabilities. On the surface, providing this list of countries in the official bill language seems benign, as each country mentioned is a partner of the United States. However, the Senate language would reduce the likelihood that Arab states engage in the measure because it assumes that they are willing to normalize with Israel and sign onto a policy that is expressly anti-Iran.

Read the full article from The National Interest.

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