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US foreign policy

US lawmakers call for plan to integrate Middle East air defenses, confront Iran

“Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation highlights the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and other countries identified by the Secretary of Defense,” Senator Joni Ernst said.

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A bipartisan and bicameral effort by US lawmakers was announced Thursday to counter Iran as Washington hopes to integrate the air defenses of six Gulf countries, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Israel.

The legislation, put forth by Republican Senator Joni Ernst and Democrat Senator Jacky Rosen, looks to get the Pentagon to coordinate with allies and partners “to identify an architecture and acquisition approach to an integrated air and missile defense system.”

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Introducing the “Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses Act of 2022,” or DEFEND Act, Senator Ernst said this would be to counter Iran and its continued attacks in the region. “These attacks compromise the security of our partners, US service members stationed in and around the region, and pose a persistent threat to our homeland,” said Ernst, speaking outside the US Capitol.

Ernst said countering radical Islamist and terrorist acts could only be deterred if the US enabled its allies in the Middle East to take on the threat posed by Israel and “its violent extremist proxies.”

She cited the Abraham Accords brokered by former US President Donald Trump as the “turnkey” to energy, economic, travel and cultural cooperation between Israel and Washington’s Middle Eastern partners.

“Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation highlights the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and other countries identified by the Secretary of Defense,” Ernst said. “This bill also requires [the Pentagon] to build a strategy to implement the security cooperation and craft and assessment of the current threat environment.”

The bill would also require a study of a fund, including money from the US and other potential stakeholders, to support an integrated defense architecture. “We ultimately believe that Congress will adopt the intent for our national security leaders to address the threat from Iran and its proxies by laying the groundwork for security cooperation with our allies and our partners in the region,” Ernst said.

For her part, Senator Rosen said the bill would improve collective security in the Middle East. She pointed out Iranian and Iran-backed proxies attacking and killing “countless” American servicemembers and civilians, adding that Tehran’s armed drone capabilities “are rapidly progressing.”

Members of Congress also introduced a similar bill to the House of Representatives. The bill also requires the Pentagon to issue a report to Congress on the feasibility of establishing a fund for an integrated defense system to “counter threats – including cruise and ballistic missiles, manned and unmanned aerial systems, and rocket attacks – as well as support defense efforts in the region and protect global security,” a statement from Congressman David Trone read.

Read more: Senators introduce bill banning US taxpayer funds from being spent for Iran deal

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