The regional implications of the planned US-Israeli missile defense command-and-control center

Israel/Palestine
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The Israeli Ministry of Defense is in the process of integrating four “of the anti-missile defense systems developed in the country [plus the US’s Patriot system] into a national command and control center for the interception of enemy missiles.” Defense News quotes a US official as saying the effort will not only aid Israeli defense but that of “US allies that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.”

The faulty logic of relying upon such missile defense systems has both left- and right-wing critics. To this we can add another problem, the forward deployment of a US missile defense network over its protectorates in the Middle East (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc.). Many governments in the region are wary of Iran’s drive to regional hegemony (given the authoritarian structure of a most regional governments, popular opinion is less important to policy, but public opinion is mixed on the matter 1, 2 for example) as are, most vocally, the US and Israel. This regional missile defense system produces further dependency on the US to counter Iranian hegemony. Importantly, the dependency is not just on the US, but on the US-Israeli relationship.

The US alone developed the Patriot (Raytheon) missile system, one of the five to be integrated into the new command-and-control system. The US and Israel jointly developed the Arrow 2, Arrow 3 (Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing for both Arrow models), and David’s Sling (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems & Raytheon) systems. And the US is helping to fund the Iron Dome (Rafael) system. The absence of official diplomatic relations between nations potentially covered by the system and Israel is irrelevant to the power dynamic being developed. The US-Israeli missile defense system facilitates regional bellicosity towards Iran by removing the perceived need for other nations to be neighborly and it applies only to those nations who are friendly to the US (and perhaps, not entirely unfriendly to Israel).

That no serious military analysis offers a likely situation of Iranian attack is also irrelevant. The threat Iran poses has never been a military one. It had and continues to offer a strictly defensive military posture [PDF]. Instead the threat is a political one. Iran’s differences with the US are often hard to find when it comes to economic policy and political and civil freedoms in the region (a point all too often glossed over by many activists who pose a US-Iran binary with one good and one bad when they both offer generally terrible and surprisingly similar regional programs). But the nation has been deeply opposed to US regional designs since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. This is especially threatening to those nations aligned with the US that have disenfranchised Shia populations (Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are the most prominent examples).

Iran’s important offensive capabilities are almost exclusively its ballistic missile program. The US-Israeli anti-missile program thus gives license to take a more aggressive posture towards Iran with less concern about infringing upon Iranian interests (valid or not). It is a step towards creating further dependency by Persian Gulf governments on the US-Israeli military posture towards Iran and the US-Israeli relationship itself. And it’s an example of how the US-Israeli arms trade and military diplomacy has profound and deeply problematic impacts at a regional level.

This post originally appeared in Neged Neshek, a website for news, data and analysis focusing on Israel’s arms industry with a secondary focus on militarism in Israeli culture, society and politics.

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