Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

MORE THAN 200 RETIRED US GENERALS AND ADMIRALS: REJECT IRAN DEAL

September 3, 2015

The Washington Times on August 27, 2015, reported that the number of retired generals and admirals signing on to a letter to Congress rejecting the Iran nuclear deal had then risen to 214. The document asserts that the “agreement will enable Iran to become far more dangerous” and “introduce new threats to American interests.” Excerpts below:

The letter was initially sent to House and Senate leaders from both parties on Tuesday with 190 signatures — among them several individuals who’ve held high-level positions in past administrations, including former Navy Vice Admiral John Poindexter, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who held various defense advisory positions during President Bill Clinton’s administration, is also a signatory.

The letter outlines complaints about the nuclear deal that Congress is slated to vote on whether to support or reject in September. “The agreement as constructed does not ‘cut off every pathway’ for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” the letter states. “To the contrary, it actually provides Iran with a legitimate path to doing that simply by abiding by the deal.”

The former military officials also assert that the deal is “unverifiable,” lamenting that the agreement allowed for a “secret side deal” between Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency that will ultimately prevent U.N. weapons inspectors “from reliably detecting Iranian cheating.”

Republican leaders have vowed to fight the nuclear accord,..

The letter was signed by retired generals and admirals who served in both Democrat and Republican administrations over the past 40 years.

Comment: No doubt a majority in the US Senate will reject the Iran deal in September. The advice of military leaders in this letter ought to be followed by Senators from the Democratic Party. The main result of the deal, if it is passed by the Senate, is to strengthen Iran and further threaten Israel. It will complicate the struggle against Islamist terrorism in the Middle East.

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AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

August 31, 2015

Wall Street Journal on August 28, 2015, published a commentary by Dick and Liz Cheney on the dangerous surrender of US leadership by the Obama administration. Excerpts below:

In 1983, as the U.S. confronted the threat posed by the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan explained America’s unique responsibility. “It is up to us in our time,” he said, “to choose, and choose wisely, between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom, and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day.” It was up to us then—as it is now—because we are the exceptional nation. America has guaranteed freedom, security and peace for a larger share of humanity than any other nation in all of history.

Born of the revolutionary ideal that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights,” we were, first, an example to the world of freedom’s possibilities. During World War II, we became freedom’s defender, at the end of the Cold War, the world’s sole superpower. We did not seek the position. It is ours because of our ideals and our power, and the power of our ideals.

No other nation, international body or “community of nations” can do what we do. It isn’t just our involvement in world events that has been essential for the triumph of freedom. It is our leadership. For the better part of a century, security and freedom for millions of people around the globe have depended on America’s military, economic, political and diplomatic might.

In the 1940s American leadership was essential to victory in World War II, and the liberation of millions from the grip of fascism. In the Cold War American leadership guaranteed the survival of freedom, the liberation of Eastern Europe and the defeat of Soviet totalitarianism. In this century it will be essential for the defeat of militant Islam.

Yet despite the explosive spread of terrorist ideology and organizations, the establishment of an Islamic State caliphate in the heart of the Middle East, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and increasing threats from Iran, China, North Korea and Russia, President Obama has departed from this 75-year, largely bipartisan tradition of ensuring America’s pre-eminence and strength.

He has abandoned Iraq, leaving a vacuum that is being tragically and ominously filled by our enemies. He is on course to forsake Afghanistan as well.

He has made dangerous cuts to America’s military.

For seven decades, both Republican and Democratic presidents have understood the importance of ensuring the supremacy of America’s nuclear arsenal. President Obama seems not to. He has advocated cutting our nuclear force in the naïve hope that this will persuade rogue regimes to do the same. He has imposed limits on our ability to modernize and maintain nuclear weapons. He has reduced the nation’s missile-defense capabilities.

Allowing the Iranians to continue to enrich uranium and agreeing to the removal of all restraints on their nuclear program in a few short years virtually guarantees that they will become a nuclear-weapons state,…

Nearly everything the president has told us about his Iranian agreement is false. He has said it will prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, but it will actually facilitate and legitimize an Iranian nuclear arsenal. He has said this deal will stop nuclear proliferation, but it will actually accelerate it, as nations across the Middle East work to acquire their own weapons in response to America’s unwillingness to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

The president has tried to sell this bad deal by claiming that there is no alternative, save war. In fact, this agreement makes war more, not less, likely. In addition to accelerating the spread of nuclear weapons across the Middle East, it will provide the Iranians with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which even the Obama administration admits likely will be used to fund terror.

A vote for the Obama nuclear deal is not a vote for peace or security. It is a vote for an agreement that facilitates Tehran’s deadly objectives with potentially catastrophic consequences for the United States and our allies.

The Obama nuclear agreement with Iran is tragically reminiscent of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s Munich agreement in 1938. Each was negotiated from a position of weakness by a leader willing to concede nearly everything to appease an ideological dictator. Hitler got Czechoslovakia. The mullahs in Tehran get billions of dollars and a pathway to a nuclear arsenal. Munich led to World War II. The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The U.S. Congress should reject this deal and reimpose the sanctions that brought Iran to the table in the first place. It is possible to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon, but only if the U.S. negotiates from a position of strength, refuses to concede fundamental points and recognizes that the use of military force will be required if diplomacy fails to convince Iran to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons.

As America faces a world of rising security threats, we must resolve to take action and shouldn’t lose hope. Just as one president has left a path of destruction in his wake, one president can rescue us. The right person in the Oval Office can restore America’s strength and alliances, defeat our enemies, and keep us safe. It won’t be easy. There is a path forward, but there are difficult decisions to be made and very little time.

America needs a president who recognizes that everything the nation must do requires having a U.S. military with capabilities that are second to none—on land, in the air, at sea, in space and in cyberspace. The peace and security of the world and the survival of our freedom depend on it. We must choose wisely.

As citizens, we have another obligation. We have a duty to protect our ideals and our freedoms by safeguarding our history. We must ensure that our children know the truth about who we are, what we’ve done, and why it is uniquely America’s duty to be freedom’s defender.

They should know that once there was an empire so evil and bereft of truth it had to build a wall to keep its citizens in, and that the free world, led by America, defeated it. They need to know about the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, the courage of the first responders and the heroism of the passengers on Flight 93. They should understand what kind of world militant Islam will create if we don’t defeat it.

They should learn about great men like George C. Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. We must teach them what it took to prevail over evil in the 20th century and what it will take in the 21st.

Our children need to know that they are citizens of the most powerful, good and honorable nation in the history of mankind—the exceptional nation. They must know that they are the inheritors of a great legacy and a great duty.

Ordinary Americans have done heroic things to guarantee freedom’s survival. Now, it is up to us. Speaking at Omaha Beach on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings, President Reagan put it this way, “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”

Mr. Cheney, former vice president of the United States, and Ms. Cheney are the authors of “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America,” from which this article was adapted; the book is being published Sept. 1 by Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Editions.

Comment: During the 20th century the United States inherited from the British the main responsibility for the defense of the West. Since the 15th century history has been a competition between alliances preeminent in seapower and those preeminent in landpower. During the past century air power and space power have been added to the competition between seapower and landpower. In the 21st century the world has entered a dangerous phase in which the great powers of Russia and China are challenging the West in addition to Islamism. No doubt the United States needs a president who recognizes those dangers. The allies of America need to be reassured that everything is done to safeguard their freedom. It is also in the national interest of the United States to remain strong in the rimland of Eurasia. From 2009 to 2015 the present administration in Washington DC has weakened American influence in one of the most vital parts of the rimland: the Middle East. The Iran deal is strengthening that Muslim regime’s threat to Israel and other Western allies in that part of the rimland (the area surrounding the Eurasian heartland). “Strategic restraint” is not the answer to the dangers presently threatening the West.

WHY THEY’RE CHEERING IN TEHRAN

July 15, 2015

Wall Street Journal on July 14, 2015, published an article by Frederick Kagan who commented that the nuclear agreement with Iran announced on July 14 is an astoundingly good deal, far surpassing the hopes of anyone . . . in Tehran. It requires Iran to reduce the number of centrifuges enriching uranium by about half, to sell most of its current uranium stockpile or “downblend” it to lower levels of enrichment, and to accept inspections (whose precise nature is yet to be specified) by the International Atomic Energy Agency, something that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had wanted to avoid.

But the agreement also permits Iran to phase out the first-generation centrifuges on which it now relies and focus its research and development by exclusively using a number of advanced centrifuge models many times more efficient, which has been Tehran’s plan all along. The deal will also entirely end the United Nations’ involvement in Iran’s nuclear program in 10 years, and in 15 years will lift most restrictions on the program.

Even that, though, is not Tehran’s biggest win. The main achievement of the regime’s negotiators is striking a deal that commits the West to removing almost all sanctions on Iran, including most of those imposed to reduce terrorism or to prevent weapons proliferation.

Thus the agreement ensures that after a short delay Iran will be able to lay the groundwork for a large nuclear arsenal and, in the interim, expand its conventional military capabilities as much as the regime pleases. The supreme leader should be very proud of his team.

The agreement consists of 159 pages of opaque prose, and key sections are referred to but are not clearly marked. Even figuring out the timeline embodied in the deal is hard, but it appears to run about as follows:

“Adoption Day” is the next major milestone, coming either 90 days after the approval of the Security Council resolution or “at an earlier date by mutual consent.” If the Security Council moves smartly, Adoption Day could come in October…

Determining when “Implementation Day” happens is…difficult, since it depends on the completion of a series of negotiations between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The timeline for those negotiations, however, is spelled out in a separate document: Discussions are to be complete by Oct. 15, 2015, and the IAEA director general will submit a final report to his board of governors by Dec. 15.

Iran at this point will be rewarded. The European Union will end a large number sanctions; President Obama will issue waivers for a number of U.S. sanctions or rescind the executive orders that imposed them. Iranian banks will be allowed back into the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications system, or Swift, allowing Iran to reintegrate into the dollar economy and move money freely.

The agreement also specifies that the EU will lift sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; the Quds Force and possibly its commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani; and a large number of other individuals and entities sanctioned not simply for their roles in the nuclear program but for terrorism and human-rights abuses.

The survival of the international arms embargo against Iran, however, depends entirely on the U.N. Security Council resolution passed to implement this agreement.

A new resolution that simply terminates all of the previous sanctions would allow Russia and China to provide Iran with any military technology they choose. To preserve the embargo, the U.S. would need to add the appropriate language to the resolution that must be passed by the Security Council this summer. But that means getting agreement from the Russians, who have already said that the embargo should be ended immediately. The U.S. is not in a very strong position to engage the Russians on this point, since the Obama administration must get the resolution through the Security Council quickly or risk having the entire nuclear deal fall apart.

Experts will debate the value of the concessions Iran has made on the nuclear front, but the value to Iran of the concessions the U.S. has made on nonnuclear issues is immeasurable. It is hard to imagine any other circumstance under which Tehran could have hoped to get an international, U.N. Security Council-backed commitment to remove the Republican Guard and Quds Force from any sanctions list, or to have the fate of the arms embargo placed in the hands of Vladimir Putin.

It is still more remarkable that the agreement says nothing about Iran’s terrorist activities, human-rights violations or role in regional weapons proliferation…

Nor is there much mystery about what Iran will do with these concessions. Tehran has recently concluded an agreement giving Syria’s Bashar Assad a $1 billion line of credit. The Iranian regime has announced that it is preparing to take delivery of the Russian S-300 antiaircraft missile system. The supreme leader has released a five-year economic plan calling for a significant expansion of Iran’s ballistic-missile and cyberwar programs and an increase in Iran’s defense capabilities.

The Obama administration seems to be betting that lifting sanctions will cause Iran to moderate its behavior in both nuclear and nonnuclear matters. The rhetoric and actions of the regime’s leaders provide little evidence to support this notion and much evidence to the contrary. The likelihood is, therefore, that this agreement will lead to a significant expansion in the capabilities of the Iranian military, including the Republican Guard and the Quds Force. It comes just as Iran is straining to keep Bashar Assad in power, dominate the portions of Iraq not controlled by Islamic State and help the Houthis fight Saudi Arabia in Yemen. That makes it a very good deal for Iran.

Mr. Kagan is the director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

IRAN, NORTH KOREA SECRETLY DEVELOPING NEW LONG-RANGE ROCKET BOOSTER AMID TALKS

November 28, 2013

Washington Free Beacon on November 26, 2013, reported that Iranian missile technicians secretly visited North Korea as part of joint development of a new rocket booster for long-range missiles or space launchers at the same time nuclear talks took place in Geneva, according to U.S. officials. Excerpts below:

Several groups of technicians from the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), a unit in charge of building Iran’s liquid-fueled missiles, traveled to Pyongyang during the past several month, including as recently as late October, to work on the new, 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Koreans, according to officials familiar with intelligence reports.

The booster is believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be intended for a new long-range missile or space launch vehicle that could be used to carry nuclear warheads, and could be exported to Iran in the future.

Recent U.S. intelligence assessments have said that both North Korea and Iran are expected to have missiles capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead in the next two years.

The Iranian cooperation reveals that the nuclear framework agreement concluded Sunday in Geneva has not slowed Tehran’s drive for missiles…

ISRAEL SAYS IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL BASED ON ‘DECEPTION AND SELF-DELUSION’

November 24, 2013

Fox News on November 24, 2013, reported that Israel harshly criticized the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran, accusing the world of “self-delusion” and saying the agreement would not halt Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Excerpts below:

Israel has long accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and in the weeks leading up to the agreement, had warned the emerging deal was insufficient. It had called for increased pressure on Iran, and warned that any relief from economic sanctions would make Iran less willing to compromise down the road.

Israel’s Cabinet minister for intelligence issues, Yuval Steinitz, said the last-minute changes to the deal were “far from satisfactory” and did nothing to change Israel’s position.

The minister compared it to a failed 2007 international deal with North Korea and said it “is more likely to bring Iran closer to having a bomb.”

“Israel cannot participate in the international celebration, which is based on Iranian deception and (international) self-delusion,” said Steinitz, whose responsibilities include monitoring Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its very survival, citing Iranian calls for Israel’s destruction.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if it concludes international diplomacy has failed to curb the Iranian nuclear program.

“Despite our disappointment, we will remain steadfast in our position and work with our friends and allies in the United States and the rest of the world in an attempt to achieve a comprehensive solution which includes a full and genuine dismantling of Iran’s military infrastructure,” he said.

IRANIAN DISSIDENTS SAY TEHRAN HAS BUILT SECRET NUCLEAR SITE

November 19, 2013

Washington Times on November 18, 2013, reported that an Iranian opposition group claimed that Tehran has built a secret underground nuclear facility that’s key to its developing atomic weapons program. Excerpts below:

The shocking claim reported by Ynet News comes as Iran and the heads of six global powers are set to meet this week and resume talks about Tehran’s nuclear program — a controversial topic that has seen the international community impose tighter sanctions on the country, even while Iranian leaders continue to deny their nuclear enrichment is for anything but peaceable purposes.

…amid the international swirl comes the claim from the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, PMOI, a group affiliated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran that members have proof of a secret site set up by the regime, for nuclear purposes, Ynet News reported. The group could not detail what type of nuclear activity was taking place at the site — but the NCRI has a history of honest reporting. This is the group that exposed Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in 2002, along with a related heavy-water facility, named Arak.

…the report has sparked international interest and investigation.

“According to specific information obtained by the Iranian resistance, the clerical regime is establishing or completing parallel secret and undeclared sites for its nuclear project,” said NCRI’s Mehdi Abrichamtchi in the Ynet News report.

The group said Iran’s secret site was located inside a sizeable tunnel underneath mountains that are located about six miles from the town of Mobarekeh. That puts it within the borders of Iran’s existing military industrial complex, at Haft-e Tir.

Mr. Abrichamtchi said officials started to construct the facility in 2005. The tunnels were completed by 2009, and construction on the actual facility finished just recently, he said, in Ynet News. He also said the group has sent its evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency for further investigation. Ynet News said the IAEA did not have immediate comment.

ISRAEL ISSUES WARNING TO IRAN OVER NUCLEAR BOMB REPORT

October 27, 2013

Fox News on October 27, 2013, reported that an Israeli defense official says a new report claiming Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in less than a month is further justification for why Israel will take military action before that happens. Excerpts below:

Danny Danon, Israel’s deputy defense minister told USA Today that Iran is speedily moving to develop advanced centrifuges that will enable it to enrich uranium needed for nuclear weapons within weeks.

The United States and other world powers fear Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The Institute for Science and International Security on October 24 issued a report stating that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb in as little as one month, USA Today reported. The organization’s estimates did not include the time required to build a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is asking Congress to hold off on enacting new sanctions against Iran, arguing that a pause in the push to impose new penalties would give negotiators flexibility in talks now underway to get Iran to comply with demands it prove its nuclear program is peaceful.

But, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was the consensus of the administration’s national security teams that a pause “would be helpful in terms of providing some flexibility while we see if these negotiations will move forward.” She said the position was delivered to lawmakers and congressional aides at a White House meeting on October 24.

“We have conveyed that any congressional action should be aligned with our negotiating strategy as we move forward. So while we understand that Congress may consider new sanctions, we think this is a time for a pause, as we asked for in the past, to see if negotiations can gain traction,” Psaki told reporters.

She noted that additional sanctions can always be imposed later if the Iranians fail to meet their obligations, and she stressed that no existing sanctions are being lifted.

At the White House, national security council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the negotiations would not last indefinitely without progress and movement from Iran, which has long defied international demands to come clean about its nuclear intentions.

Bipartisan pressure in Congress to ramp up sanctions on Iran has been rising for some time and hit a new high last week after negotiators from the United States, the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany met with Iranian officials in Geneva.

The Senate Banking Committee is expected soon to draft new sanctions shortly after the government reopens, largely mirroring a House bill that passed overwhelmingly by a 400-20 vote in July and blacklisted Iran’s mining and construction sectors. It also called for all Iranian oil sales to end by 2015.

The Senate’s bill may narrow that timeframe, block international investment in more economic sectors, try to close off Iran’s foreign accounts and tighten Obama’s ability to waive requirements for allies and key trading partners who continue to do business with Iran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

SYRIA, IRAN CAPABLE OF LAUNCHING A CYBERWAR

August 31, 2013

The Washington Times on August 28, 2013, reported that Syria and its ally Iran have been building cyberattack capabilities for years and soon might have a chance to use their skills in a hot war for the first time. Excerpts below:

Former U.S. officials and cybersecurity scholars say Syria has a demonstrated cyberattack capability and could retaliate against anticipated Western military strikes against Syria for its suspected chemical weapons attack against civilians in the country’s 2-year-old civil war.

“It’s foreseeable that [Syrian] state-sponsored or state-sympathetic hackers could seek to retaliate” against U.S., Israeli or Western interests, Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of Homeland Security, told The Washington Times.

“We have already seen regional cyberactors, such as the Syrian Electronic Army, conduct attacks on U.S. targets,” added Rep. James R. Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat and a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Syrian attackers penetrated the company that manages New York Times’ Internet domain, NYTimes.com, according to reports in the computer security trade press.

Hackers can relatively easily hide their tracks from all but the most extensive and time-consuming forensic efforts, but the Syrian Electronic Army has publicly claimed these attacks. In online postings, the group of hacker activists, or “hacktivists,” claim to be motivated by Syrian patriotism and to act independently of the regime in Damascus.

“It can be difficult to distinguish between hackers who are sympathetic to a regime and those directly [state] sponsored or controlled,” said Mr. Chertoff, co-founder and chairman of the Chertoff Group, a global security advisory firm.

Islamic hackers whom U.S. officials have linked to Iran have launched a series of increasingly powerful cyberattacks against the websites of major U.S. banks for almost a year.

Large U.S. financial institutions probably have the best cybersecurity of any nongovernmental entity, yet their websites have been driven offline by repeated attacks.

A self-described hacktivist group called Izad din al Qassam has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which they announce in advance.

The group says the attacks are designed to punish the United States for an Internet video, “Innocence of Muslims,” made by an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian, which portrays Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a killer and pedophile.

But the kind of cyberattack that most alarms national security specialists took place a year ago and was aimed at the Saudi Arabian state oil company, Aramco.

A virus called Shamoon infected the company’s computer network and wiped data from more than 30,000 computers, effectively destroying all the information on the system.

A similar attack on a bank could destroy digital records of customer accounts.

Hackers also have demonstrated that they could take over computer control systems that operate chemical, electrical and water and sewage treatment plants. They also can hack into transportation networks.

“An aggressor nation or extremist group could gain control of critical switches and derail passenger trains, or trains loaded with lethal chemicals,” Leon E. Panetta, then CIA director, warned in a speech in New York last year.

“They could contaminate the water supply in major cities or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”

Cyberforensic specialists have documented the Syrian Electronic Army’s historic links to a computer society founded years ago by Syrian President Bashar Assad. The British Guardian newspaper has reported that the group is funded by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Mr. Assad’s and the owner of SyriaTel, a telecommunications and Internet service provider.

Front groups such as the Syrian Electronic Army still provide states with so-called plausible deniability, Mr. Chertoff said.

“Even if it is evident that Syria is behind an attack, they can deny it. We saw that in Estonia,” he said.

Any U.S. response to a Syrian attack might well not be visible, said Adam M. Segal, a cybersecurity scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations.

U.S. Cyber Command has said it has the ability reach back into attackers’ networks and “prevent these [kinds of] attacks from their source,” said Mr. Segal, “essentially doing defense through offense.”

Cyberattacks are now “an integral part of modern warfare,” said Mr. Langevin, who has led efforts in Congress to pass legislation designed to shore up the nation’s cyberdefenses.

“This is going to be a lingering problem,” Mr. Chertoff said.

MUCH-NEEDED U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE

April 26, 2013

Peter Brookes on April 25, 2013 in the National Review called for United States to upgrade its missile-defense technology. Excerpts below:

Our attention is focused on the terrorist attack in Boston last week, but just two weeks ago we were gripped by North Korean threats of a new Korean War and the possibility of New York’s being hit attacked by long-range missiles. While North Korean promises of thermonuclear war have faded from the news for the moment, the threat hasn’t gone away for good.

The national-security challenges our country faces from the advances in ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapon programs continue apace. Global missile- and nuclear-proliferation problems are real, and they can’t be ignored. So the development and deployment of missile-defense programs must be a priority for American security.

Take North Korea. Bluster, belligerence, brinkmanship, and blackmail are routinely directed at Washington. Yet Pyongyang’s actual ability to carry out threats against us is improving – and significantly.

There is plenty of debate within the U.S. intelligence community as to whether North Korea already has a functional nuclear warhead that it can mate with the missiles of various ranges currently in its arsenal. But there is little doubt that we will be near, or at, the top of the targeting list when they do have one.

Then there’s Iran. Although they are also out of the news at the moment, Iranian centrifuges continue to spin, producing kilograms of low- and medium-enriched uranium, which — if further enriched — could be used in nuclear weapons.

While publicly available intelligence estimates differ, Tehran may have the wherewithal to produce its first nuclear weapon in the very near future.

Iran’s ballistic-missile program isn’t any more comforting. In 2009, Tehran was able to put a satellite into space using its own launch vehicle. Today, the U.S. government estimates that Iran will have an ICBM by 2015, adding to what is already the largest ballistic-missile arsenal in the Middle East.

While seemingly obvious, it’s worth pointing out that the principles of physics that would allow North Korea to put a warhead anywhere on the Earth’s surface also apply to Iran.

We shouldn’t overlook the Chinese or the Russians, who are also modernizing their strategic arsenals.

The obvious question is: What should we do?

As we all know, diplomacy and punitive economic sanctions haven’t stopped North Korean or Iranian missile or nuclear programs — despite years of trying.

Nothing makes more sense than investing in American missile defenses.

With advances in missile defense, a robust, layered, capable system will not only protect us from enemy ballistic missiles and their nuclear and other payloads (e.g., chemical, biological, conventional, or electromagnetic pulse), but it will provide decision-makers with additional policy options beyond massive retaliation.

In addition, due to missile defense’s ability to blunt the effectiveness of the ballistic-missile threat, it may well deter aggression with these weapons against us in the first place.

The best option now is to move forward vigorously with funding, developing, and deploying American missile-defense systems to protect the homeland, to protect our troops overseas, and to protect our allies and friends from the growing nuclear and missile menaces around the world.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.