A member of the House Armed Services Committee is urging the Trump administration to build a new ballistic missile defense system in the Middle East to counter Iranian aggression and defend U.S. allies, according to communications to the White House obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) disclosed to White House officials on Friday that plans already exist to build a missile defense system in the heart of the Middle East, providing cover against Iranian provocations in the region.
Hunter's recommendation comes just days after Iran again tested ballistic missile technology in violation of international bans on such behavior proscribed by the nuclear agreement. The Trump administration leveled a range of new sanctions against the Islamic Republic on Friday, including sanctions on its Chinese procurement network.
Senior White House officials disclosed to the Free Beacon on Thursday that new sanctions are a first step in punishing Iran. The Trump administration is reviewing "a range of options" to hold Iran accountable, according to the source, who said "the restraint of recent years will end" in the coming months.
Hunter wrote that more must be done to counter Iran, which continues to sponsor terrorism and harass its regional neighbors.
"I write to you today to express my strong concern with the Iranian regime and its increasing aggression, specifically regarding its illicit use of ballistic missiles," Hunter wrote to the White House, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon. "Iran has repeatedly endangered our allies throughout the Middle East and Europe, and I support your approach in dealing with Iran."
This behavior is heightening tensions in the region and worrying U.S. allies, which remain concerned about the Obama administration's years of diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.
"As a result of Iran's continued provocations, it is my recommendation that you immediately consider permanently placing a ballistic missile defense system in Kuwait," Hunter wrote, noting that the plans for such a system are already in the works.
"I was recently made aware, by a highly regarded senior fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, that planning for this contingency currently exists," Hunter told the White House. "And taking this approach would serve as both a deterrent to Iran and protection for our critical allies in the region."
A large number of lawmakers support this plan and similar ones to boost funding to America's missile defense system, which has become less effective with age and has suffered a series of setbacks.
"This strategy complements the letter that my congressional colleagues and I sent to you this week, which urged you to rebuild America's missile defense system as you consider your forthcoming budget," Hunter wrote.
The sanctions announced Friday by the White House target Iranian individuals and companies complicit in supplying ballistic missile technology to the Islamic Republic. The sanctions include designations against Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which carries out terror activities across the Middle East.
The new designations extend across "several networks and supporters of Iran's ballistic missile procurement, including a critical Iranian procurement agent and eight individuals and entities in this Iran- and China-based network," among others, the White House said in a fact sheet.
Designations against the IRGC include its "support network working with Hezbollah," the Lebanese terror organization, according to the White House.
"Iran's continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States," John E. Smith, acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement. "Today's action is part of Treasury's ongoing efforts to counter Iranian malign activity abroad that is outside the scope of the JCPOA. … We will continue to actively apply all available tools, including financial sanctions, to address this behavior."