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Because the gunman is loading his weapon and taking dead aim at Israel and the U.S., the two allies have dramatically deepened and expanded their cooperation on missile defense in recent years.
After being pelted by 39 Scud missiles in 1991—and being targeted by a regime in Iran that vows to wipe it off the map—Israel has an appreciation for missile defense that others lack. That appreciation is enhanced by the fact that Israel has seen missile defenses work in battle. The Patriot system, though imperfect and rudimentary during the 1991 Gulf War, and the Iron Dome system have scored successes and saved Israeli lives. Moreover, Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system is perhaps the best on earth. With most of the tests conducted in the United States and half the funding coming from the U.S., the Arrow wouldn’t exist without American support.
As if to return the favor, in 2008, Israel allowed the U.S. to install missile-defense radars in Israel to support a growing international network of missile defenses—an international missile defense (IMD) coalition, for lack of a better term. Led by the U.S., dozens of countries are signing on to the IMD team because the missile threat has rapidly metastasized. Three decades ago, there were nine countries that possessed ballistic missiles. Today, there are 32. As a 2010 Pentagon report warned, “The ballistic missile threat is increasing both quantitatively and qualitatively.”
Several of the countries in the growing ballistic-missile club are unfriendly or unstable. Iran, North Korea and Syria fall into the former category, Pakistan and Egypt into the latter. Four of those countries are in Israel’s neighborhood. Two are right next door.
Of course, North Korea and Iran are the most worrisome to the U.S. North Korea stunned the world with long-range missile tests in the 1990s and nuclear tests in the 2000s. In fact, since 2009, North Korea has detonated a nuclear weapon, has test-fired long-range missiles and has begun deploying a road-mobile ICBM, which will allow the Kim Dynasty to hide its missile arsenal.
Reading from the same script, Iran has carried out “covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload,” according to the British government. Iran recently took delivery of 19 intermediate-range missiles from North Korea. The missiles give Iran the ability to strike as far away as Berlin. The Defense Intelligence Agency estimates Iran could have a surface-to-surface missile capable of hitting the United States by 2015. But Iran’s missile reach is not limited to land-based rockets. In 2004, high-level Pentagon officials confirmed that Iran secretly test-fired a ballistic missile from a cargo ship. Hiding a Scud-type missile and launcher below decks, the ship set out to sea and then transformed into a floating launch pad, peeling back the deck and firing the missile, before reconfiguring itself into a nondescript cargo ship.
In short, Israel probably isn’t the only country within Iran’s reach.
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