Iran's Missiles Are a Clear Threat. Here's How America's Allies Are Responding.


U.S.-Iran relations recently became more strained.

On October 3, the Trump administration withdrew from the sixty-three-year-old “Treaty of Amity” with Iran following an International Court of Justice ruling that recent U.S. sanctions violated the accord.

The move follows recent verbal sparring during the UN General Assembly where Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused President Trump of having a “Nazi disposition” with his “America-first” worldview. Worried by increasingly polemical U.S.-Iran rhetoric, a bipartisan cohort of former politicians, intelligence officials and army officers penned a statement supporting a more balanced approach to Iran, one “which combines pressure and diplomacy.”

The recent increase in diplomatic jockeying between the United States and Iran may counterintuitively alleviate some consternation in the Gulf region, where despite the joint nuclear deal, Iran still exerted regional influence to wage proxy wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Declining relations between the U.S. and Iran may thus signal affirmatively an increase in military and economic support to the GCC countries, shoring up regional defenses and substantially raising the cost of Iranian military action. Escalating tensions, however, also come with a higher chance of war, which, with a nuclear Iran, would pose an existential risk to the region.

In such an eventuality, defense against incoming nuclear and non-nuclear missiles would be a top regional priority.

The United States has a historical precedent of providing missile defense systems to the Gulf region: after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the United States deployed Patriot batteries to bases in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Similarly, during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, PAC-2 and PAC-3 interceptors were deployed to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan, with Aegis offshore systems supplementing the batteries with additional tracking capabilities.

In the fifteen years since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, more missile defense systems have been procured by or deployed to the region: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar each made bulk purchases of Patriot systems. The United States additionally deployed Patriot systems to Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE.

Diversification away from Patriot missile systems has also occurred. Facing an escalating Iranian nuclear program, the United Arab Emirates applied in 2011 to be the first foreign country to acquire the THAAD system. This billion-dollar deal solidified the UAE’s status as possessing the most technologically advanced missile defense systems in the Middle East.

The 2016 deployment of THAAD systems allow the UAE to target incoming short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the comprehensive sale from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon included “48 High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles, 9 THAAD launchers; test components, repair and return, support equipment… [and] personnel training and training equipment.”

Should Iran continue its nuclear program, stoking more fears about a potential war, GCC countries will likely continue stockpiling missile defense systems. Another potential outcome could be the completion of a much-discussed GCC missile defense shield. Such a system would require not only United States’ buy-in, but regional multilateral defense agreements .

While countries would have to forego national rivalries and unilateral defense policies in lieu of cooperation, growing missile threats may catalyze action. Saudi Arabia has claimed to have intercepted more than 100 incoming missiles fired by Houthis in Yemen, missiles that the United States claims are primarily supplied by Iran and Hezbollah.

And should Iran’s nuclear program be proven to have restarted, the GCC would have aligned interests in a bolstered missile shield. For the United States, continuing to support a shared Gulf missile defense system is advantageous not only for its Iran policy, but also for the protection of its soldiers, expatriates and allies in the region.

Tyler Headley is a research assistant at New York University. His work has previously been published in Foreign Affairs and The Diplomat.

This article originally appeared on The National Interest.

More from The National Interest:

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Rangers resting in the vicinity of Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of "Omaha" Beach landings on "D-Day," June 6, 1944. (Public domain)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

For one veteran who fought through the crossfires of German heavy machine guns in the D-Day landings, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his service and that of his World War II comrades would be "quite meaningful."

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to award the Army Rangers of World War II the medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Read More Show Less
Senior Airman Marlon Xavier Cruz Gonzalez

An airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after a shooting at a Raleigh night club that killed a 21-year-old man, the Air Force and the Raleigh Police Department said.

Read More Show Less