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Ernst Leads Proposal to Unite Middle East Partners Against Iranian Aggression

The DEFEND Act is a bipartisan, bicameral effort by the Abraham Accords Caucus to combat attacks from Iranian-backed extremists through air and missile defense capabilities.

WASHINGTON ­– The day after a drone attack on the U.S. consulate in Iraq, likely committed by Iranian proxy forces, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a combat veteran of the Global War on Terrorism and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is leading a bipartisan, bicameral effort to develop a strategic approach among countries included in the Abraham Accords, aimed at combatting Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

Today, Ernst introduced the DEFEND (Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses) Act alongside fellow Abraham Accords Caucus Co-Chairs Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). To read the full bill text, click here.

2022-06-09 DEFEND Act Play button

For video of the press event, click here. For photos, click here.

“The full potential of the Abraham Accords, economic cooperation, education exchanges, trade agreements between Israel and our Middle Eastern partners, cannot be achieved without a commitment to collective security,” said Senator Ernst. “America’s role in activating and networking our allies and partners in the Middle East must evolve as violent extremists, like Iran, change their tactics and onboard new systems capable of catastrophic damage against civilian targets. This bipartisan, bicameral effort directs the United States work with our allies and partners in the region to build an integrated air and missile defense system to take on the threat posed by Iran and its violent extremist proxies.”

“As U.S. forces and our partners in the Middle East face increasingly sophisticated air and missile threats from Iran and its terrorist proxies, we must act in a coordinated way to defend against shared threats,” said Senator Rosen. “Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation will support the Department of Defense’s efforts to integrate the defense capabilities of our Middle Eastern allies and partners, including Israel, and leverage their unique capabilities to develop an integrated air and missile defense architecture.”

“We cannot hope for peace, we must work to create peace. That is why the Abraham Accords are so essential to the future of the region,” said Senator Lankford. “My colleagues and I also want the U.S. Department of Defense to prepare a strategic plan to strengthen integrated air and missile defense capabilities to protect people and infrastructure from the ongoing threats from Iran. We can and must be smart about the realities existing in the region from Iran, but we must also continue to integrate people and commerce in the region toward a goal of lasting peace.”

“As missile threats against our partners in the Middle East increase, this bipartisan legislation is critical to ensuring the safety and security of the region,” said Senator Booker. “Under the leadership and coordination of the Department of Defense, this bill will help develop an integrated air and missile defense system that protects civilians and infrastructure from rocket attacks and strengthens the defense capabilities of our Middle Eastern allies. By strengthening and encouraging cooperation between signatories of the Abraham Accords and other regional partners, this bill will also help foster a more peaceful and stable region.”

Ernst’s DEFEND Act would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to prepare a strategy to work in conjunction with Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other allies and partners in the Middle East to establish a defense architecture and acquisitions approach that would employ a combination of air and missile defense capabilities to protect the region from attacks by Iran and Iran-backed extremist groups. Companion legislation will be introduced in the House by Abraham Accords Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WASH.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Rep. David Trone (D-MD), and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) as well as House Armed Services Committee Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.).

Ernst’s bill has been endorsed by: ADL; AIPAC; AJC; American Jewish Congress; CUFI Action; FDD Action; Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America; JFNA; JINSA; USIEA; and Senior Middle East scholars who support this bill at the Atlantic Council.