Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Iranian Ballistic Missile Threat Reinforced in Def Auth Bill

During the conference of the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Act, the House receded to the Senate provision stating it is the policy of the United States to develop and deploy in conjunction with its allies and other nations an effective defense against Iranian ballistic missiles. The provision was added to the Senate version on July 12, when the Senate voted 90 to 5 to pass Amendment No. 2024 introduced by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). It should be noted, however, that Congress cut out $85 million in construction funding for the new missile defense sites in Europe from the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill.

As I noted in “War Is Peace, Sanctions Are Diplomacy”:
“Iran’s ballistic missile program remains largely in its nascent stages, however. The US intelligence community has consistently estimated since 1999 that Iran will not have mastered the science of intercontinental ballistic missiles until 2015. At that point, Iran would still have to manufacture an arsenal of missiles and weapons to fit the missiles, putting the actual deployment date even further into the future. (Also, though the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the Missile Technology Control Regime are voluntary mechanisms intended to discourage states from proliferating missile technology, there is no binding international treaty that prohibits Iran from developing its ballistic missile capability.)

“Since Iran lacks the ability to reach the United States, the Bush administration has tried to focus attention on the “threat” of its shorter-range missiles. Just two days before the sanctions rollout, Bush delivered a speech at the National Defense University in which he spoke of Iranian “ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel and Turkey, as well as American troops based in the Persian Gulf.” He further cited the Iranian ballistic missile program as a justification for a heavier US military presence in Eastern Europe: ‘Today, we have no way to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, so we must deploy a missile defense system there that can.’”

Here is the Conference Report language on Iranian ballistic missile “threat”:

Policy of the United States on protection of the United States and its allies against Iranian ballistic missiles (sec. 229)

The Senate amendment contained a provision (sec. 1218) that would state the policy of the United States to develop and deploy, in conjunction with its allies and other nations whenever possible, an effective defense against Iranian ballistic missiles that threaten forward-deployed forces of the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in Europe, and which could eventually pose a threat to the United States homeland. The provision would also make it the policy of the United States to proceed with the development of such defenses so that any missile defenses fielded by the United States in Europe are integrated with or complementary to missile defense capabilities fielded by NATO.

The House bill contained no similar provision.

The House recedes with an amendment that would add a policy statement to encourage NATO to accelerate its efforts to acquire missile defense capabilities to defend NATO territory against the existing threat of Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, including wide-area defense. It also includes references to other allies and friendly nations in the region.

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