The director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, said during an otherwise pretty dull hearing before the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee that the threat to the United States has "increased substantially" with the recent launch by Iran of a small satellite and the launch last week of a mid-range ballistic missile.
That caught the ears of the professional congressional staffers at the Thursday hearing, who wondered what the implications might be, since they were not explored at the hearing.
Some possible answers came from the venerable RAND Corporation. It came out with a report about Iran and its relations with the US over the next decade. One of the key recommendations of the May 19 report, "Dangerous But Not Omnipotent: Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East," is that the US should back off -- de-escalate in the report's language -- on a bilateral basis and combine that with "muscular multilateral efforts targeted at Iranian behaviors" that are not acceptable to the international community, such as terrorism and its development of nuclear weapons. Key to this multilateral approach would be support from Russia and China, which the report concedes is "questionable."
One of the most interesting policy recommendations concerns how the US should communicate its policy goals. We must "issue unambiguous statements about US interests and intentions in the region, particularly regarding Iraq," the authors say, The messages must be "simple and easily understood, and the United States must stick to them long enough for them to be taken seriously." Among those statements should be a pledge that the US will say it has "no long term interest in occupying Iraq or establishing a permanent military presence" in Iraq.
The 230-page report, was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force in order to "accurately gauge the strategic challenges from Iran" over the next decade. If the threat from Iran really has "increased substantially," as the MDA director told the subcommittee, quickly finding answers and implementing alternatives to the policies that have failed to deter Iran from developing ICBMs and pursuing nuclear weapons for much of the last decade is imperative.