Iran Can Be Deterred

by Kingston Reif

Published in the Washington Times on July 10, 2008.

In “Radar shield quest” (Commentary, Tuesday), A. Wess Mitchell makes three strategic arguments in favor of extending the U.S. missile defense system to a third site in Europe. All of them suffer from numerous flaws. First, the claim that the third site enjoys growing support from NATO obscures the fact that at the April NATO summit in Bucharest, NATO members merely stated that they “recognize” – rather than “welcome” or “support” – the contribution the system could make to European security. Ultimately, the alliance has not pledged to develop any missile defenses.

Second, it is unlikely that the third site would enhance U.S. leverage in negotiations with Iran. Our intelligence community has concluded that a state seeking to attack the U.S. homeland would find it far simpler and less expensive to launch a nuclear attack via shorter-range cruise missiles, cargo shipments or terrorism. These are all threats long-range missile defenses in Europe would be powerless to combat.

Third, the insinuation that Iran cannot be deterred is based on conjecture rather than fact. Iranian foreign policy, since the Islamic Revolution has been guided by the principles of realpolitik, not millenarian fanaticism.