As US opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran decried its de facto approval by the Senate on Thursday, administration officials sought to assuage fears that Washington was abandoning its regional allies, promising increased defense cooperation with Israel and Gulf states.
US Navy Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the US and Israel would soon sign a draft deal on the production of the jointly developed David’s Sling system, Reuters reported.
Robert Scher, assistant defense secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities, noted that Washington has provided Israel with $3 billion in funds for missile-defense programs since 2001.
David’s Sling, also known as Magic Wand, was designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the US defense firm Raytheon to thwart rockets and missiles fired from 100-300 kilometers (62-186 miles) away.
The system successfully passed a series of trial runs in April, and the Israeli Air Force has already begun training operators for the array, which is expected to become operational next year.
Meanwhile, military officials said the US was also moving forward on plans to bolster its Persian Gulf allies by developing a missile-defense system in the region.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Iran’s ballistic-missile activities continue to pose a risk to the United States and our allies and partners in Europe, Israel, and the Gulf,” Scher told a Congressional committee.
Scher said Washington would continue to work with its allies to create a cooperative defense program.
Another official explained that the main barrier for the creation of an effective shield was not technology, but policy. Sharing data and even linking up defense systems would allow the US and its Gulf partners to increase their capabilities “exponentially,” explained Michael Tronolone, former director of a US Army air defense center in Abu Dhabi.
Kenneth Todorov, former deputy head of the US Missile Defense Agency, warned: “The worst mistake we could make if the deal happens is to say, ‘We can let our guard down.'”
During a US visit by Saudi Arabian King Salman last week, administration officials assured the Saudi leader that it would be allocating the necessary resources to help check Iran’s regional ambitions, even as the recent nuclear deal provides the Shiite nation with hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, has noted that the defense budget of US allies in the Gulf is eight times that of Iran and that no amount of sanctions relief could close that gap.
“We need to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” Rhodes said ahead of the king’s visit.
On Thursday, the White house passed a major hurdle on the way to the implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, as the Senate blocked a resolution of disapproval of the accord.
US President Barack Obama described the Senate vote as a “victory for diplomacy,” minutes after just 58 out of 100 senators voted to advance the resolution, falling two votes short of the 60 needed for a super-majority to successfully invoke cloture — a procedure that ceases debate and brings the resolution to a vote.
Thursday’s outcome all but guaranteed that the disapproval legislation would not reach Obama’s desk.
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