Deterring Iran Through Integrated Air and Missile Defense (Marcellus Policy Analysis)

By Rob Schantz, Spring 2024 Marcellus Policy Fellow

The Joe Biden Administration does not have an Iran strategy. While the Administration initially tried to revive the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), , these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and declared “dead” by Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell in December 2023.

The Iranian threat to U.S. economic and security interests continues to evolve through rapid development of a nuclear capability, attacks on U.S. forces via Iranian proxies, disruption of global trade by the Houthis, and threats to regional energy infrastructure. Iran exerts power via the air through its missile and drone programs – which have directly attacked Israel and U.S. bases in Iraq, destroyed critical energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, and have disrupted global shipping. On the nonproliferation front, it is more than likely that Iran would use a missile as a vehicle for a nuclear weapon.

Thus, aerial denial of Iranian power projection is a domain with multiple stakeholders, is defensive, and can greatly diminish Iranian influence. The cornerstone of an Iran strategy should be an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) regime, a system that would defend American economic interests and security objectives in the Middle East. IAMD is a comprehensive and combined approach to defend against airborne military threats such as traditional aircraft, missiles, and UAVs as it seeks to integrate all the resources and platforms necessary for air defense across multiple nations, thus providing greater net security than a single nation could provide.

A Middle East IAMD serves to protect U.S. economic interests, strengthen security objectives, facilitate offshoring U.S. security commitments, and limit Iran’s ability to influence the region through coercion. By leveraging the combined capabilities of regional partners, the United States can decrease its security commitments to the region as IAMD grows. While the United States would continue to serve a vital role in the coordination of the organization, this is far less of a task than directly committing military platforms and systems to the region

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