When Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared that, “We are determined to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear (armed), and all the options are on the table. When we say it, we mean it,” he let it be known that time was swiftly running out for the diplomatic option to succeed in curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following a recent conversation with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, echoed the growing sentiment among senior Israeli officials that the time for action may be quickly approaching.
“However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them. Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program,” he said.
These remarks have brought into sharper focus the inexorable reality that diplomatic endeavors designed to inhibit Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons have largely failed.
They also underscore the internal concern within the Israeli government that Tehran is inching ever closer toward a nuclear capability.
The Obama Administration, however, may disagree. White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated the administration’s belief that more time for diplomatic sanctions remained.
Augmenting his argument, Carney stated, “We feel confident that we would be able to detect a break-out move by Iran towards the acquisition of a nuclear weapon.”
It comes as no surprise that Israeli leadership may not share this rosy view of the situation when one considers that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel.
Almost no clear thinking analyst still suggests that Iran is not in pursuit of nuclear weapons, the acquisition of which would fundamentally alter the balance of power in the Middle East and render regional U.S. national security interests tenuous.
This reality portends the inescapable fact that the United States must take the necessary steps to enhance its protective sphere over our nation’s forward deployed troops in the region.
Fallout from active Israeli-Iranian hostilities would no doubt place American lives in danger and surely heighten the likelihood that American military forces would be further drawn into the conflict.
Additionally, protecting American interests in the region includes providing an umbrella of security to our friends and allies both in the Middle East as well as on the European continent. It cannot be expected that an Iranian retaliatory response would be limited in scope to Israel.
In order to hedge against such dangers, the U.S. government should ensure that Naval ships and destroyers equipped with the Aegis anti-ballistic missile system remain in place to protect America’s regional interests.
Equally important, this further requires that combatant commanders are armed with an adequate supply of anti-ballistic missiles capable of intercepting hostile missile attacks against U.S. deployments or allies in the region.
In its recent markup of the defense bill, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense moved in the right direction by requesting funding toward the procurement of 29 additional next generation SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles, known as the Block IB.
In June, this latest SM-3 missile conducted its second successful test firing over the Pacific Ocean, demonstrating its capacity to intercept an increasingly sophisticated range of ballistic missiles.
Unlike projected iterations of the SM-3, a staple of America’s anti-ballistic missile defense system, this newest version -- projected for deployment in 2015 -- has proven its worth in combating both the immediate and near-term threats facing our allies and interests.
The likelihood that hostilities between Israel and Iran boil over into an active conflict has reached a fever pitch. Diplomacy notwithstanding, the U.S. government must take the necessary steps to ensure that if and when such hostilities ensue, America’s human and impalpable interests are as protected as possible.
Article originally appeared at The Hill's Congress Blog