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  • Author: Seth G. Jones, Nicholas Harrington, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: As tensions escalate between the United States and Iran in the Middle East, Russia is engaged in covert and overt cooperation with Iran in ways that undermine U.S. national security interests. This analysis of commercial satellite imagery at Tiyas Airbase in Syria indicates the scope and proximity of Russian and Iranian military ties. If Washington wants to contain Tehran and prevent further Iranian expansion, U.S. policymakers will need to increase pressure on Moscow to curb Tehran’s activities in countries like Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Intelligence, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ian Williams
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Tensions with Iran are once again increasing. The slow implosion of the nuclear accord, Iran’s harassment of cargo ships, and the downing of a U.S. unmanned aircraft have made plain the risk of conflict between Iran and the United States. The dispute should also draw attention to the questionable preparedness of the United States and its allies to fight a war with Iran on short notice and deal with that war’s blowback across the Middle East and Europe. Regional missile defense architectures are an important part of that preparedness. Iran has the largest and most diverse supply of ballistic missiles in the Middle East region, and Tehran has shown an ability and willingness to use them in combat operations.1 Iran is also learning to employ other kinds of aerial threats, such as long-range cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In a conflict with Iran, U.S. and allied forces would likely face a wide spectrum of air and missile threats. The biggest U.S. investment in Iran-centric missile defenses has been the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). EPAA is a phased buildup of U.S. missile defense assets in and around Europe to deter and, if necessary, limit damage from an Iranian missile attack on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Yet the EPAA architecture is heavily dependent on the nominal, unencumbered performance of a single radar deployed relatively close to Iran. This produces a single point of failure susceptible to malfunction or operator error. It also presents an Achilles’ heel that a determined or imaginative adversary could exploit. Iran certainly fits both descriptors. In 1958, strategist Albert Wohlstetter wrote that U.S. confidence in its nuclear second-strike ability was achieved only by “ignoring the full range of sensible enemy plans.”2 This same critical judgment should be applied to confidence in the EPAA as currently configured. Inasmuch as a sensible adversary such as Iran relies upon its missile forces to achieve its defense goals, it should be credited with the foresight to target single points of failure that would preclude the effective application of that missile force. Fortunately, there are practical steps that NATO and the United States can take to further adapt EPAA for greater resiliency. Upgrades to existing radars, the integration of allied radars into the missile defense mission, and the addition of air and space-based sensors would do much to improve EPAA’s capability and survivability, improving U.S. and NATO preparedness for an unexpected Middle East conflict.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, North Atlantic, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Few recent American foreign policy decisions have been as divisive as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear arms control agreement with Iran. Advocates of the agreement have focused far too exclusively on its potential benefits. Opponents equally exclusively on its potential faults. Both sides tend to forget that any feasible arms control agreement between what are hostile sides tends to be a set of compromises that are an extension of arms races and potential conflicts by other means. As a result, imperfect agreements with uncertain results are the rule, not the exception. President Trump has made it clear that he opposes the agreement and would like to terminate it. His dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Security of State, and his replacement by Mike Pompeo – along with his dismissal of General H.R. McMaster and replacement with John Bolton – indicate that President Trump may well seek to terminate the agreement in the near future – action which might or might not have significant bipartisan support. He faces a May 5th to decide whether to again waive economic sanction against Iran, a decision which comes up for renewal every 120 days.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel