Watch CBSN Live

Unplugged: Missile Shift Due to Iran's Changed Arsenal

The White House's announcement that it would abandon the Bush administration plan for a long range missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and instead deploy a more portable system of land and sea based interceptors is really the result of intelligence that Iran is advancing is capacity to launch short and medium range missiles, CBS News' National Security Correspondent David Martin said on "Washington Unplugged" Thursday.

"The buried lede here is that there is this new intelligence estimate which says that Iran is progressing much more quickly than previously thought on developing its short and medium range missiles," Martin said. "Where previously the U.S. had thought maybe they would have to contend with a launch of four or five Iranian missiles, now they are talking about a capability for Iran to launch hundreds."

Martin explained that the now scrapped plan would put only ten interceptor missiles in Poland.

"Ten interceptor missiles against hundreds of Iranian missiles just doesn't cut it," he said.

The White House "had to come up with a new approach here if they were going to take this new approach here seriously," he added.

Martin added that the standard missile which will be used as part of the new Obama plan has the "advantage of costing one tenth of what those large interceptors they were going to put in Poland cost. So now it's financially possible to deploy hundreds of these standard missiles."

CBS News' Chief White House correspondent Chip Reid said "critics have immediately seized on the idea that what they are doing is basically throwing Poland and the Czech Republic under the bus here...and they are doing it to basically improve relations with Russia."

Mackenzie Eaglen a research fellow from the conservative Heritage Foundation said "if you look at it a little cynically but perhaps realistically, we are taking away missile defense in Europe...and getting nothing in return."

President Obama will chair the U.N. Security Council next week, but Eaglen argued that in advance of those meetings "Russia has said we are not even going to press for additional sanctions" against Iran

She added that while the diplomatic fallout of the policy reversal might produce better relations between the U.S. and Russia, both Poland and the Czech Republic are major allies in the war in Afghanistan.

"We could see some diminished presence in Afghanistan as a result of this and there is going to be major blow back from Congress," Eaglen said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was adamant with reporters that there was no quid pro quo with Russia involved in this policy shift.

"At the same time the White House does allow that this certainly could help improve relations with Russia...vis a vis Iran," he said.

Why now, moderator Bob Orr asked?

"I think this was a surprise to just about anybody outside the Pentagon," Chip Reid replied.

Watch the full roundtable above.

"Washington Unplugged" appears live on each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue