The Looming Middle East Security Crisis
The immediacy of Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation allows little room for delay.


Several countries in particularly dangerous neighborhoods, notably Japan and Israel, wisely have been contributing to their own missile defense for years. Other countries, particularly moderate Arab states in the Middle East, also reportedly are taking cooperative measures to defend themselves in light of the emerging Iranian threat. The United Arab Emirates has acquired the Patriot PAC-3 and apparently is negotiating a $7 billion dollar deal with the U.S. for the purchase of THAAD, a sale that Congress has approved. Kuwait has contracted for the upgrade of their Patriots to the more advanced PAC-3 configuration, and Saudi Arabia has signed a $1.7 billion contract to upgrade its Patriots to PAC-3 and is discussing a purchase of THAAD.

Such missile-defense cooperation certainly is a necessary part of the answer to Iranian nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile threats. Also important is moving past naïve hopes that diplomatic “engagement” will disarm Iran’s nuclear program, that experimenting with deterrence and assurance now by retracting the American nuclear umbrella will be an effective way to further the administration’s anti-nuclear agenda, and that dramatic cuts in defense spending should be implemented now, given unfolding international threats. Getting these fundamentals right will be crucial, whether the Obama administration’s answer to the emerging Iranian threat is assertive near-term military action or a more benign, long-term policy of containing a nuclear-armed Iran. The immediacy of Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation allows little room for delay.

— Keith B. Payne, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, is now professor and department head of the graduate school of defense and strategic studies, Missouri State University (Washington, D.C., campus).


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