But Where was Iron Dome?

As likely as not, striking at the US and British was designed to provoke a response that would allow the mullahs to claim to be the victim of American militarism.

US soldiers inspect the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/JOHN DAVISON)
US soldiers inspect the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/JOHN DAVISON)
If your inbox has been filled with novel coronavirus updates, take a break and consider the nexus of two other stories.
US and British forces began to come under attack in Iraq by Iranian-sponsored militias in January. One strike killed two Americans and a female British soldier, and wounding more than a dozen others. The US struck back first at weapons storage depots of the militias in Iraq. And then – in what may or may not have been a neat move – surgically removed IRCG General Siamand Mashhadani (which may or may not be his name).
As likely as not, striking at the US and British was designed to provoke a response that would allow the mullahs to claim to be the victim of American militarism rather than the victim of home-grown disease and rot. The regime is being pounded by COVID-19 and
by the apparent awareness of its people that the government has lied about the disease, its spread, and ways to treat it. The regime is being pounded by the collapse in oil prices and the drop in oil orders. The regime also just announced a quarter of its oil
rigs are out of commission – which may take decades to revive.
Retaliating strategically deprives them of the opportunity to blame us. And that’s fine.
The announcement that Patriot missiles will be there shortly will make people feel better. But it shouldn’t.

Our troops have been sitting in Iraq in bases without medium and short range missile defense systems – despite the fact that the US Army has two full Iron Dome Systems purchased from and built in cooperation with Israel. And, the Army has announced it is
canceling plans to purchase more Iron Dome batteries, claiming difficulties integrating them into the Army’s existing air defense systems.

Having spent $1 billion on the program, the army’s Futures Command isn’t saying Iron Dome doesn’t work – it can’t; we’ve watched thousands of rockets and missiles fired from Israel’s neighbors intercepted by Iron Dome since it was deployed in 2014. The
head of Futures Command, General Mike Murray, called it “very capable.”
But? He said, “they cannot be integrated into our air defense system.”

To begin with, the Army doesn’t have an “integrated air defense system.” The long- range missile-catcher Patriot is the only system currently in the Army’s arsenal. And the Patriot is going to Iraq. But Iron Dome separately fills a short and medium range missile
defense niche that the US desperately needs to fill.
So? The real issue appears to be Israel’s refusal to provide the US with the Iron Dome’s source code, the “beating heart” of the system. It creates the one capability Iron Dome has that other systems don’t have – the ability to discriminate between rockets or missiles that are heading for populated areas and those that are likely to fall harmlessly in open space.

According to former Pentagon official Dr. Stephen Bryen, “While it may seem fairly easy to design a system that does what Iron Domes does, it is not. It requires very fast calculations and ground mapping features. The ground map alone has to be very special, and exactly how it works in a mobile deployable system isn't public knowledge. 
One of the questions the Pentagon was likely to want to sort out is whether Iron Dome's discriminatory feature works outside of Israel, for example in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan.”

Bryen added that, in any case, “You don't need source codes to integrate one missile system with another. All you need is an Application Programming Interface (API) that gives you functional access to interface information and data.”

On the other hand, having the source codes could also make it possible for the US to reverse engineer the two batteries it has and then move forward to produce it without Israel. In fact, the Army is planning to host a “shoot off” for potential vendors, American
and other, to help “determine the best solution to provide that capability,” according to Gen. Murray.

You mean, start over again to create something that already exists?

Israel has sold 100 Iron Dome units to at least nine countries, including the US, Singapore, the Czech Republic, India, Romania, Azerbaijan and (maybe but no one is confirming) Saudi Arabia. Certainly, the US would like a piece of that sales action and
American defense companies would as well. But to have a “shoot off” when there is a perfectly good, battle-tested system in American hands – at the very moment American troops are under fire from the kinds of forces that don’t have long range missiles, but rather medium and short range rockets – would be a disservice to our troops and our
allies.
It would be worse than that.
The writer is senior director of The Jewish Policy Center in Washington.