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Sen. Jim DeMint: Why I May Filibuster New START: UPDATED

December 3rd, 2010

Senator Jim DeMint, critical of the Obama administration’s decision to drop Bush-era plans to deploy missile defense shields to Poland and the Czech Republic, is equally critical of START. He believes the treaty will limit how future presidents could pursue missile defense. DeMint asserts that Cold War-era foreign policy is no longer feasible, since the U.S. faces threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and START would have no effect on these countries’ capabilities to develop nuclear weapons.

In a recent statement published at National Review Online‘s The Corner blog, DeMint argues why he may filibuster the new treaty. An excerpt:

“Many of us have been concerned that the START Treaty would weaken our national security, and recent revelations of previously undisclosed talks with Russia on missile defense and movement of Russian tactical nuclear warheads only raise more questions that must be answered. I’ve asked for the full negotiating records, as have been provided to the Senate on previous treaties, but the Obama administration has continually denied that request and promised that missile defense was never part of the negotiations with Russia. But we have now learned that the State Department did in fact meet with Russia to specifically discuss missile defense, after months of denying these discussions ever took place.”

Read the rest at NRO.

Update: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney weighs in on START in the Boston Globe. An excerpt:

“Why the hurry, Mr. President? It’s a question we’ve asked twice before. There was a rush to pass his $787 billion ‘stimulus’’ to hold unemployment below 8 percent. Congress obliged, and now we are saddled with higher unemployment and crushing debt. Then there was his health care assault: no time for our representatives to even read the bill. As ObamaCare has been revealed, it has frightened business into retreating from hiring. Now the president is in a hurry again: affirm the New START treaty right away, he insists, during the lame duck session. Fall for his rush once, shame on him; twice, shame on Congress; a third time, shame all around.

“A treaty so critical to our national security deserves a careful, deliberative look by the men and women America has just elected. The president is in a hurry for the same reason he has been in a hurry before: he knows that if his vaunted treaty is given a thorough review by the Senate, it will likely be rejected. And well it should be.”

Patriot Missile Expansion in Persian Gulf

November 1st, 2010

Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced the expansion of Patriot missile defense capabilities in the Persian Gulf. The advantages to the U.S. and allies are obvious. A strong missile defense system in the Gulf would serve to protect and defend nations threatened by Iran and send a message that the U.S. and its allies are serious about stopping the rogue state.

At the time, missile defense experts expressed concern that the system would defend against short-range missiles, not the long-range missiles Iran seeks to build.

In September, sources reported that the U.S. intended to sell Saudi Arabia fighter aircraft and defense weapons worth billions. This week, a spokesman from U.S. defense contractor Raytheon confirmed that those plans are underway. An excerpt:

“The United States said last month Saudi Arabia wants to spend as much as $60 billion on aircraft, helicopters and other arms, kicking off a spending spree in the Gulf anticipating an escalation of the West’s row with Iran over its nuclear plans.

“Diplomats expect smaller Arab states in the world’s top oil producing region to follow with arms orders as they worry they might become targets for strikes. Kuwait was also interested in an upgrade of Patriots, while talks were also going on with Qatar, Culligan told reporters late on Saturday, declining to provide a price tag.

“Raytheon said it was in talks for another arms deal in the United Arab Emirates.

The firm was also hoping to sign homeland security and cyber security deals with Saudi Arabia, he added. ‘We’re working on proposals,’ he said.”

Missile Defense Quick Links for Tuesday

October 19th, 2010

–  Last year there was speculation that countries like Israel and Turkey would be alternative sites for missile defense shields after the Obama administration dropped Bush-era plans to deploy them to Poland and the Czech Republic. NATO seeks Turkey’s support to expand missile defense in Europe.

“The US has engaged Turkey in political and military dialogue on its potential technical and operational contributions should NATO adopt this approach,” Defense secretary Robert Gates said. “Contrary to some press reports, we are not pressuring Turkey to make a contribution.” (Source)

–  The Heritage Foundation’s Sally McNamara blogged about NATO and missile defense on The Foundry blog. An excerpt:

“The Obama administration’s approach to missile defense is two-fold — much the same approach as the Bush administration. President Obama is talking to nations bilaterally about hosting U.S. facilities such as radar and interceptors, which he wants to build up in several phases. But he is also seeking NATO’s approval to link up U.S. assets with European assets. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that for a 10-year investment of just $280 million, all the separate missile defense systems that NATO members own individually can be linked together for far greater coverage and protection than each enjoys by itself.”

–  Aviation Week reports that Iran and North Korea may be working together to develop ballistic missile systems. Israeli officials said North Korea’s BM25 Musudan has been delivered to Iran.

S-300 Missiles Fall Under Sanctions

September 28th, 2010

No wonder Russia’s been dragging its feet over the deal to sell S-300 missiles to Iran. In June, we blogged about Russia’s continued delay delivering S-300 missiles to the rogue state in a deal that supposedly wasn’t affected by the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions against Iran. According to Russia’s foreign minister, however, the deal does fall under sanctions.

An excerpt from Press TV:

“‘If Russia refuses to deliver S-300 missile systems to Iran, the issue can be pursued legally,’ Head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi told Fars News Agency on Sunday.

“Referring to Boroujerdi’s statement, Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that ‘I’ve heard nothing about it. I only know that the supplies fall under the ban introduced by the UN Security Council, and in this event force majeure comes into effect.’

“Under an 800-million-dollar contract signed in 2005, Russia was required to provide Iran with at least five S-300 systems. However, the contract’s implementation was delayed until Resolution 1929 was adopted by the UN Security Council (UNSC) against Iran.”

Iran seeks to protect itself against pre-emptive strikes from Israel and claims to need the S-300 systems for defense. Was Russia really worried about sanctions after it sealed the deal with Iran? Is that the reason Russia was hesitant to agree to tougher sanctions in the first place? After initially denying the deal and calling Iran unstable, Russia eventually admitted to selling Iran the systems. Earlier this year, the U.N. Security Council deputy secretary Vladimir Nazarov confirmed there was a signed contract between the countries.

Missile Defense in GOP’s ‘Pledge to America’

September 23rd, 2010

As part of a push ahead of the November midterm elections, the House Republicans issued a “Pledge to America,” which proposes changes in government spending, homeland security, social issues, and foreign policy.

Missile defense and Iran sanctions are included in the pledge. An excerpt from the 21-page PDF document:

Fully Fund Missile Defense:There is real concern that while the threat from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles could materialize as early as 2015, the government’s missile defense policy is not projected to cover the U.S. homeland until 2020. We will work to ensure critical funding is restored to protect the U.S. homeland and our allies from missile threats from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

“Require Tough Enforcement of Sanctions Against Iran:The Iranian regime is a state-sponsor of terrorism, has actively worked to harm our deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and violates the rights and will of its own people. It has declared its determination to acquire a nuclear capability, which threatens its neighbors and the security of the United States. We will work to ensure the government aggressively and effectively implements the sanctions tools Congress has provided.”

(photo credit: Getty Images)

U.S. May Sell Missile Defense Weapons to Saudi Arabia

September 14th, 2010

King Abdullah

The Washington Post reports that in addition to the sale of fighter aircraft (called the largest of its kind), the U.S. may sell Saudi Arabia missile defense weapons worth billions to help the country bolster its defense against Iran. An excerpt:

“‘The U.S. is trying to create the strongest effort to deter and contain Iran,’ said Anthony Cordesman, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ‘If you look at all of these sales, the U.S. is working to create a Saudi Air Force that is far more capable than Iran. These sales help give Saudi Arabia the capability to convince Iran that it can’t use missiles or air power against Saudi Arabia or its neighbors.’

“Although he said Israel has historically been uneasy with U.S. military sales in the Arab world, he noted that Israel got funding for anti-ballistic missile systems and is among the first customers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

This week, the Obama administration will notify Congress of the impending aircraft sale. Sources report that pro-Israel politicians oppose the deal, citing Israel’s goal to maintain a military edge in the region, while sponsors say Israel is okay with the deal.

Top 10 Reasons Not to Trust Russia

August 13th, 2010

Cross-posted at Heritage.org:

The current regime in Russia has a terrible record as a reliable partner, yet President Obama wants the nuclear treaty he negotiated with the Kremlin fast-tracked for Senate approval. That makes no sense. Here are 10 reasons why.

1. A Long History of Arms Control Violations: Russia repeatedly violated the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) all the way to its expiration in December 2009, as clearly stated in 2005 and 2010 State Department compliance reports. Specifically, Russia tested an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile with Multiple Individually Targeted Re-entry Vehicles (warheads) while START was in force. Such activities, however, were explicitly banned.

2. The West Is Still Their #1 Threat: Russia regards the U.S. and NATO as its principal adversaries and configures its forces for large-scale conventional theater operations with them. The recent discovery of the Russian spy network inside the U.S. and their celebration upon return to Russia, courtesy of President Obama, indicates that Russia is set in a Cold War mentality.

3. Helping Iran and North Korea: According to U.S. intelligence, Russia violated nonproliferation agreements by providing ballistic missile technology to Iran and North Korea, which have continually threatened America and its allies.

4. Still Building a Nuclear Arsenal: Nearly 20 years after the end of the Cold War, Russia still designs, builds, and modernizes nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. Russia’s new military doctrine maintains a low threshold for nuclear first strikes. In fact, Moscow plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in Europe if ever confronted with a conventional threat. In 2009, Russia conducted a military exercise that simulated a nuclear attack on Poland.

5. Not in Compliance on Other Treaties: The U.S. believes Russia to be in non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention. In 2009, the Strategic Posture Commission told Congress: “Russia is no longer in compliance with its PNI [Presidential Nuclear Initiatives] commitments.” Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapons arsenal may be 10 times larger than that of the U.S.

6. No Regard for Georgia Independence: Russia has repeatedly broken its promises to withdraw military forces from Georgia and Moldova. When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, it rewrote the rules of post–World War II European security. It repudiated the Helsinki Pact of 1975, which recognized the security of European borders, and violated the sovereignty of a NATO aspirant and member of the Council of Europe.

7. Responds Offensively to Defensive Measures: In response to U.S. plans for a defensive missile shield in Europe to protect against Iranian missile threats, Moscow has repeatedly threatened to deploy Iskander short-range and nuclear-capable missiles to target U.S. allies in Eastern Europe. Reports show that the Baltic Fleet is armed with nuclear weapons that can be used against Europe.

8. Ties to Terrorist Organizations: Russia cultivates ties with terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah and provides military and diplomatic support for anti-American “rogue states” such as Syria, Iran, and Venezuela. Russia voted with the U.S. at the U.N. Security Council to pass sanctions on Iran—but only after working hard to water them down to practically nothing.

9. Natural Gas as a Political Weapon: The Kremlin uses its neighbors and Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas as a foreign policy tool to pressure states. In 2009, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and to Europe by extension, causing the International Energy Agency to deem them an unreliable supplier.

10. An Authoritarian Regime: The current model of leadership under President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has become increasingly authoritarian. Despite numerous commitments under international law, the government has tightened controls on political life, civil society, and the media. Disruption of political opposition’s activities, restricting access to state-controlled TV, human right violations (such as the beating of demonstrators who “support” the Russian constitution), murder of journalists and anti-corruption activists, disappearance and torture, abuse of the legal system for monetary and political gain—all illustrate this negative trend.

Missile Shields in Turkey?

August 3rd, 2010

Last year, sources speculated that countries like Israel and Turkey would be alternative sites for missile defense shields after the Obama administration dropped Bush-era plans to deploy them to Poland and the Czech Republic. Reuters reported that the administration might sell $7.8 billion worth of Patriot “fire units,” missiles, and other weapons to Turkey.

Called “one of the biggest U.S. government-to-government arms sales in years,” the deal would help Turkey, which borders rogue state Iran, defend itself against missile threats. The Washington Post reported this week that the U.S. is “nearing a deal” to set up a radar ground station “probably in Turkey or Bulgaria.”

The U.S. is also working with Israel to help upgrade its missile defense system. The possible radar station in Turkey and the system in Israel would help both countries defend against Iranian attacks. Russia opposes missile defense shields in Europe, claiming they would threaten its national security. Missile defense experts are concerned that the Obama administration compromised U.S. security for Russia’s agreement on START and help containing Iran.

Woolsey and Heinrichs on the Iranian Missile Threat

July 14th, 2010

Iran missile test

Several months ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that in as little as five years, Iran may be capable of hitting the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile, with North Korea’s help.

Defense experts James Woolsey, a former director of Central Intelligence and a board member at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Rebeccah Heinrichs, an adjunct fellow at the same organization, discuss this threat in the Wall Street Journal:

“In March of that same year, Gen. Michael Maples, then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate panel that Iran’s successful satellite launch ‘shows progress in mastering the technology needed to produce ICBMs.’ Earlier this year Iran successfully orbited a second satellite with an ICBM-class ballistic missile.

“Gen. Maples is right. If you can launch a satellite into orbit you are very close to being able to hit a target half way around the world. That’s why the Soviet launch of Sputnik so shocked the U.S. intelligence community in 1957. When a country is the most active state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders routinely endorse slogans like “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” we should take it seriously when they pursue the capabilities to make their dreams a reality.

“A December 2009 missile launch proved Iran has already obtained the ability to reach Israel. Given President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s and other Iranian leaders’ millenarian fanaticism, it would be most imprudent to rely on nuclear deterrence alone to protect us. If Tehran were to achieve a nuclear missile capability, it could hold American cities hostage—unless, that is, the U.S. builds a robust and comprehensive ballistic missile defense.”

Recess Appointment for Philip Coyle

July 7th, 2010

Philip Coyle

Philip Coyle, a missile defense skeptic and critic, was appointed by the president during a congressional recess to serve as associate director for the National Security and International Affairs in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Among other things, Coyle believes U.S. missile defense is unnecessary and doubts that rogue nations like Iran seek to attack the U.S. and its allies.

“In my view, Iran is not so suicidal as to attack Europe or the United States with missiles,” Coyle said last year.” He doubts Iran or North Korea would launch a missile attack against us.

Rebeccah Heinrichs, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote about Coyle in March at The Politico.

“President Barack Obama has nominated an anti-missile defense adviser who may soon receive congressional approval — and put Americans in danger…Russia and China, two countries with nuclear weapons and effective long range ballistic missiles, have helped Iran develop its missile program. Other countries that range from the hostile to the unreliable — for example, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan — also have ballistic missile programs.”

In his 2008 congressional hearing testimony, Coyle claimed that Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) isn’t effective enough to defend Europe and the U.S., but Heinrichs wrote that “a more complex version of GMD had completed a successful intercept test just months before. It is now the only system capable of defending the United States from long-range missiles.”

Despite threats from rogue states, the Obama administration has scaled back missile defense. In fact, some missile defense experts believe Obama compromised our nation’s security and our ability to defend ourselves in exchange for Russia signing the new START.

As Heinrichs said in her article, the new associate director for the National Security and International Affairs appears confident when it comes to rogues states acting rationally, but lacks confidence in his own country’s military leaders and engineers.