Republicans introduce bipartisan, bicameral DEFEND Act

As global threats from Iranian backed-extremists continue rising, Republicans joined their colleagues on the bipartisan, bicameral Abraham Accords Caucus to introduce a bill that aims to unite America’s Middle East partners.

The bipartisan, bicameral Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses (DEFEND) Act of 2022, H.R. 7987/S. 4366, 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, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“Iran has proven time and time again that they will stop at nothing to threaten the safety and security of Israel and our allies in the Middle East working together to achieve peace in the region,” said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who sponsored H.R. 7987. “That progress towards a more hopeful future cannot continue unless the United States takes a stand against Iran’s escalating acts of aggression. 

“The DEFEND Act sends a clear message that our country is prepared to do what it takes to help our allies protect themselves, save lives, and preserve the peace we’ve worked so hard to achieve,” she added.

Rep. McMorris Rodgers on June 8 introduced H.R. 7987 alongside five original cosponsors and fellow House caucus members, including U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Bradley Schneider (D-IL). Members of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus, including U.S. Sens. Jon Ernst (R-IA) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), on June 9 introduced the identical bill, S. 4366, in their chamber. 

“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 Sen. Ernst, who sponsored S. 4366. “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 to 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,” Sen. Ernst added.

If enacted, the measure would require the U.S. Defense Secretary to seek cooperation with allies and partners in the Middle East to identify an architecture and develop an acquisition approach for certain countries in the Middle East 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, according to the text of the bill. 

“I have always said that the Abraham Accords would transform Middle Eastern security, at last enabling responsible states to work together to keep each other safe from Iran’s destabilizing and violent agenda. I am hopeful we are witnessing the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity in the Middle East,” said Rep. Wagner. “To further these accomplishments and safeguard that peace and prosperity, I am proud to support the DEFEND Act, legislation that will ensure the United States leads our Middle Eastern allies and partners in the creation of an integrated air and missile defense capability to deter an aggressive and erratic Iran.”

Rep. Bacon noted that the security of America’s partners in the Middle East is important for U.S. national security and is imperative in the wake of an increasingly violent Iranian regime. 

“An integrated air and missile defense system is key to combating attacks from Iran and its proxies and improving regional stability,” Rep. Bacon said. “Air defense is also a force multiplier. When our allies and partners can defend themselves, it offers relief to U.S. forces.”

The proposed bill is supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Christians United For Israel Action Fund, FDD Action, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, senior Middle East scholars at the Atlantic Council, and Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.