America vulnerable to Iranian missile attack

This irony, reneging on an agreement with two partners in Central Europe and yielding to threats by the Russians, was not lost on our European allies, who viewed the shield as a substantial contribution to their safety.

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More importantly, the decision leaves the United States less capable of responding to the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. According to the head of the U.S. European Command, Iran would be able to deploy an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching parts of the U.S. by 2015.

The European-based missile defense system would have provided a layer of protection against just such an attack on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

As Iran and North Korea continue to defy the international community with missile testing and pursuit of nuclear capability, the Obama administration has cut missile defense funding by more than $1 billion.

Recently, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported to the United Nations that “[t]he Agency … assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device.” Even worse, the report revealed that not only does Iran have “sufficient information” to make a nuclear weapon, but it has “probably tested” a key component.

As if that was not reason enough to stick to the long-planned European-based missile defense system, evidence of a concealed nuclear plant in Iran recently became public, while at the same time they test-fired at least two missiles that could reach Israel — revelations that are sure to further destabilize an already tenuous region.

With all this evidence, it remains a mystery why President Obama decided to go against NATO — which is on record saying missile defense is necessary to deal with the Iranian threat — and our allies by removing a defensive missile defense system. While our policy toward Iran should be one of preventing their possession of nuclear missiles, U.S. national security demands that we also defend against such a contingency.

The administration has indicated that this is a “better way forward,” and that the U.S. needed to shift strategy due to changing intelligence about Iran’s short- and medium-range missile capabilities that the old plan didn’t protect against. However, the administration also stated that “our military will continue research and development on a two-stage ground-based interceptor, the kind that was planned to be placed in Poland, as a back-up.”

As a back-up? This begs the question why President Obama would scrap an already-in-place long-range missile defense program for one that only protects against short- and medium-range threats with a promise to “continue research” for a long-range system. These two plans are not mutually exclusive, and the U.S. and our allies deserve a plan that protects against all threats.

In the realm of national security, perception is reality. There is no doubt we looked like we capitulated to Russia. We certainly let down our European allies, and for the moment, we are less protected against long-range missile threats.

Bilirakis serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.