Senate Armed Services Committee Advance Policy Questions for Lieutenant General Michael E. Kurilla, USA Nominee to be Commander, United States Central Command (Excerpts)

February 8, 2022



What is your assessment of the current military threat posed by Iran?

Iran remains the primary and enduring threat in the USCENTCOM area of operations due to its use of its increasingly sophisticated military capabilities, broad proxy network, and periodic willingness to use force against the U.S., our allies, and partner forces. Iran’s rapidly expanding military capabilities enable it to coerce its neighbors, threaten international trade, and exploit instability throughout the region.

Tehran’s primary power projection tools are ballistic missiles, UAVs, and expanding maritime capabilities. Iran’s missile inventory includes both medium-and short-range ballistic missiles capable of holding many regional targets at risk. Iranian surface-to-air missiles pose a significant threat to U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets operating in international airspace. Additionally, naval cruise missile technologies will strengthen Iran’s Anti-Access Area Denial efforts and increase Tehran’s ability to hold critical sea lines of communication at risk and threaten countries in the region with greater speed, precision, and lethality. Iran also leverages a network of proxy forces to advance its power base and build strategic depth. Iran repeatedly demonstrates a willingness to share advanced conventional weapons with Shia militant proxies and partners throughout the region.

Are U.S. military forces and capabilities currently deployed to the USCENTCOM AOR adequate to deter and, if necessary, respond to threats posed by Iran?

If confirmed, I will conduct a careful assessment of forces required in the region with consideration for the significant military capabilities and threats emanating from Iran. This assessment will examine force levels necessary to deter and, if necessary, respond to Iranian threats and assess risks and mitigating strategies.

What is your assessment of U.S. national security interests associated with the growth of Iranian influence in the Middle East?

My assessment is that Iran’s negative influence in the region continues to grow and is incompatible with U.S. national interests, as well as those of our allies and partners. Iran views the U.S. as its greatest enduring threat and continues a multifaceted approach to remove U.S. forces from the region while avoiding escalation into major conflict. The risk of miscalculation and escalation remains high.

If the United States returned to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), what concerns, if any, would you have for regional security?

Iran is, in my view, the single biggest contributor to instability in the region and any agreement must fully prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Without knowledge of the specific terms of ongoing diplomatic negotiations, it is premature to assess the outcomes on regional security. Renewed negotiation efforts must consider the significant changes that have occurred in the security and geopolitical environments since the 2018 American withdrawal from the agreement.

What actions, if any, do you believe the United States and the international community could undertake to counter Iran’s increasing conventional military capabilities?

It is my view that together with the international community and our Middle East partners, the U.S. maintains a shared objective in countering Iran’s proliferation of Advanced Conventional Weapons and its support to proxies. In addition to continued diplomatic engagement, I assess that USCENTCOM must continue its efforts to enhance interoperability with allies and partners to deter and, when required, defeat Iranian conventional military capability across multiple domains. Finally, we must continue investing in technology, to include Artificial Intelligence and machine learning platforms and programs, to increase our ability to detect, defend, and respond to conventional Iranian military capabilities.

In your view, what risks, if any, are associated with reducing U.S. military presence in the Middle East with respect to the threat posed by Iran?

If confirmed, I will assess whether a reduction of U.S. force presence impacts our ability to achieve objectives for the region and undermines the assurances we provide allies and partners. Part of this assessment will address key areas in which partners, allies, or interagency elements can fill capability gaps or further enable efforts. It is my view that the current U.S. military posture in the Middle East serves as an important role in unifying a coalition of regional partners and provides a counterbalance to Iran’s malign regional influence. If confirmed, I would ensure USCENTCOM continues to work hard in sustaining enduring military, security, and intelligence ties with our regional partners.

What is your assessment of the purpose and threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program? To what extent is the U.S. and our partners in the region postured to counter the Iranian ballistic missile threat?

If confirmed, I will assess whether U.S. and our partners’ integrated air and missile defense capability is adequate to counter Iranian ballistic missile threats in the short term. I intend to prioritize working with regional partners on their air defense systems with the aim of fully integrating air and missile defense across the region.

In your view, what role, if any, should USCENTCOM play in countering Iran’s support of international terrorism and proxy forces throughout the USCENTCOM AOR?

It is my view that USCENTCOM should support a whole-of-government approach to countering Iran’s support for international terrorism and proxy forces. The Iranian regime leverages the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force in managing proxies in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon through the proliferation of advanced weapons technology and destabilizing actions. USCENTCOM will counter Iranian efforts with continued operations, activities, investments, engagements, and support to partners in the region.