US Plans To Introduce New Ballistic Missile Technology Into Middle East

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The US is considering whether to sell a new type of ballistic missile to Bahrain, which some analysts believe could spur the race to obtain the deadlier and more efficient technology in the Middle East.

The Pentagon is in the process of selling 25 Army Tactical Missile Systems missiles to Bahrain, according to The Council for a Livable World Education Fund.

Erik Floden, Director of the Council's Conventional Arms Transfer Project, said that nobody in the Middle East has this particular ground-to-ground missile, which has a range of 165 kilometers (99 miles).

The US Defense Department confirmed that Bahrain requested the purchase of the ATACMS and that the administration is consulting with Congress over the matter.

Congress must be notified of any government-to-government weapons' sale over $15 million.

Although the proposed sale won't violate the Missile Technical Control Regime, which bans missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers (180 miles), it will mean that the US would be introducing a new ballistic missile into the region, Floden said in an interview on Monday.

According to Floden, the US has never sold a missile at this level of sophistication or technology to the region.

"Introducing the ballistic missiles to the Persian Gulf will exacerbate the existing regional arms race," Floden wrote in an earlier article.

"If the US sells these missiles to Bahrain, the other countries of the region will want similar missiles, further eroding regional security" he added.

However, Paul Beaver, spokesman of Jane's Defense, said he "wouldn't worry" about this sale.

The missile system is "no smarter" than the Black Shahine missile, which France has been asked to supply to players in the region, or the missiles that Saudi Arabia is now seeking to purchase, Beaver said.

"It's a new missile but not a new concept [for the region]," Beaver said, adding that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia either possess or are trying to secure this same kind of missile.

Bahrain already has a US-supplied Multiple Launch Rocket System. However, according to Floden, it is not as "efficient" or "deadly" as the ATACMS.

The tiny Persian Gulf state has served as one of the US's closest allies in the Gulf, allowing US fighters on bombing raids to Iraq to take off and land from its country. The US Navy's Fifth Fleet also is based there.

According to a US Department of Defense communiqu\'e9, "Bahrain will use these weapons as part of Peninsula shield for the defense of the Arabian Peninsula."

However, Floden wrote that, "Bahrain has no need for these missiles because it already has missiles in its arsenal capable of defending against any potential invasion ...[and] the Fifth fleet [is] a massive deterrent force in its own right."

If Washington is considering this sale, Floden said, as a "reward for loyalty," then it should find a way other than supplying Bahrain with ballistic missiles.

"Any time weapons' systems are added to the region, it is not good for the relations in the area," Floden said.