New US bill brings together Abraham Accords signatories against Iran

The DEFEND Act aims to "combat Iranian aggression threatening peace" as Iran is "on the one-yard line in their pursuit of a nuclear weapon."

 Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting via video conference with people from East Azarbaijan in Tehran, Iran, February 17, 2022.  (photo credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting via video conference with people from East Azarbaijan in Tehran, Iran, February 17, 2022.
(photo credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

WASHINGTON – Members of the Abraham Accords Caucus in the US House and Senate on Thursday introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would “unite Middle East partners as global threats from Iran and Iranian backed-extremists continue to rise.”

The Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses (DEFEND) Act is “a joint effort by Congress to develop a strategy for Abraham Accords and other countries to combat Iranian aggression threatening peace and security in the Middle East,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Illinois) said in a statement.

Why is the bill necessary?

“Iran is on the one-yard line in their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and is threatening our allies in the region in numerous other ways. Strengthening our allies by building unity and enhancing shared security capabilities is critical to confronting Iranian threats to the region,” said Schneider.

“US leadership, in developing integrated air and missile defense, would provide essential security, stability, and a unified defense to the region. The DEFEND Act is a prime example of the important, bipartisan, bicameral work that Congress must prioritize in our pursuit of regional peace and stability.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)

 Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). (credit: WIKIPEDIA) Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). (credit: WIKIPEDIA)

“US leadership, in developing integrated air and missile defense, would provide essential security, stability and a unified defense to the region. The DEFEND Act is a prime example of the important, bipartisan, bicameral work that Congress must prioritize in our pursuit of regional peace and stability.”

If signed into law, the bill would authorize the secretary of defense to cooperate “with allies and partners in the Middle East, including those who signed the Abraham Accords” to develop and implement “an integrated air and missile defense architecture to defend against Iranian threats.”

The text specifically names the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait – as well as Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Egypt.

What does the bill contain?

The bill requires that the secretary of defense submit to the congressional defense committees a strategy “on cooperation with allies and partners in the Middle East to identify an architecture and develop an acquisition approach for the countries to implement an integrated air and missile defense capability to protect the people, infrastructure and territory of such countries from cruise and ballistic missiles, manned and unmanned aerial systems, and rocket attacks from Iran and groups linked to Iran.”

The bill says the strategy should also focus 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.”

Who's behind the bill? 

Schneider introduced the House version of the bill together with fellow Abraham Accords Caucus members, including Reps. McMorris Rodgers (Washington), David Trone (Maryland), Ann Wagner (Missouri), Don Bacon (Nebraska) and Jimmy Panetta (California).

The DEFEND Act was also introduced by members of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus, including Sens. Jon Ernst (R-Iowa), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).