Middle East Monitor, 16 June 1994
In an article headlined "Surface-to-Surface against Mutual Trust," Sharon Sadeh, in Thursday’s Haaretz, says the successful test-launch of Israel’s Arrow on Sunday and an American missile in New Mexico earlier could not have come at a better time — just before the seventh international conference on regional defense against missiles, to be held next week in the United States.
"Ground-to-ground missiles have long since digressed from the narrow role the planners gave them and have become a prime weapon in the implementation of an intimidating foreign policy."
The relocation of the arena of the confrontation between Israel and the Arabcountries to the conference table "did not mitigate the arms race in the Middle East, including the acquisition of surface-to-surface missiles, which according to foreign reports are an integral part of the deterrent concept of countries in the Middle East.
"Security sources doubt if the arms race in the region, including the acquisition of surface-to-surface missiles, will slow down in the future, even if Israel succeeds to sign peace agreements with Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian entity.
"Israel and countries in the region expedited their arms build-up in times of crisis, but in periods of calm as well they were utilized to shore up military might.
"The Egyptian build-up was not reduced to any significant extent even after it signed the peace agreement with Israel in 1979. The extent of purchasing did decrease somewhat, but the Egyptians put the emphasis on quality and varied weapons and are incorporating new warfare doctrines.
"In reaction to the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, Syria formulated a new defense concept that put the emphasis on her military might andwas accompanied by ambitious purchase programs.
"In Libya, on the other hand, the increased weapons arsenals do not derive from a substantive external threat."
Given these trends, a pessimistic evaluation of the situation was formulated in the defense establishment, according to which even if the resul t of the process between Israel and her neighbors is peace agreements in exchange for territorial concessions on Israel’s part, "the military tension with Syria and more distant threatening countries ? Iran, Libya and Iraq — will be maintainedat the present level."
Security sources noted with concern that access to Western markets, which Syria could get in the wake of a peace agreement with Israel, "would allow Syriato carry out a process of modernization of their army, similar to the process the Egyptian army passed through, and tilt the balance of power to Israel’s disadvantage.
"In the more distant threat cycle, they add, a front of ‘rejectionist countries’ may be created, made up of Libya, Iran and Iraq, which are not involved in the peace process.
"Consequently, they state, Israel cannot afford to reduce the extent of her arms appropriations in the future either."
Sadeh notes that Middle East countries equipped themselves with ground-to -ground missiles more than 20 years ago. In 1973 the Soviets supplied Scuds to the Arab armies, and they were used in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
But the impact of missiles increased in the 80s and 90s because of the extensive use made of them in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Gulf war over Kuwait. Today, nine countries in the Middle East were furnished with 2,000 ground-to-ground missiles of various kinds.
"Security sources believe that by the end of the decade more than half the countries in the region with ground-to-ground missiles in their possession will have a manufacturing capability, at least partially, and will almost not be dependent on outside suppliers."
They would, therefore, be more sensitive to the various international control conventions, such as the MTCR, which restricts trading in missile technology.
"There is another reason for the motivation of Iran, Libya and Iraq to acquire independence in the missile domain — the possible elimination of Jordanand Syria, apart from Egypt, from the anti-Israeli coalition is liable to accelerate their plans to create a common strategic front."
For that reason, the defense establishment doubted if the number of missiles, or even more so the development plans, would be abated in these countries.
"In other words, in the Middle East a permanent kernel of danger and instability will remain, not only against Israel but also vis-a-vis the participants in the peace process.
"In the defense establishment they contend, therefore, that the more the peace process proceeds, the lack of stability will paradoxically increase — this, because even if the unlikely happens and Israel reaches an understanding on weapons control with her neighbors, the achievement will be a drop in the ocean since as a counter reaction the rejectionist countries will expedite theirappropriation of missiles. This would also deter the Western countries from carrying out initiated supervision activities.
"The misgivings felt by many in Israel with regard to the possibility of creating a basis of mutual trust with the Arab countries for reciprocal arms control stems primarily from the experience accumulated with Egypt.
"Although 15 years of peace have gone by, the conditions have not yet been formulated for a mutual agreement between the two countries on arms supervision. In actual fact, a converse process has been created:
Egypt’s missile and launcher programs have only been speeded up.
"Egypt initiated new missile programs, including the development of the Condor missile, which began after the Camp David talks. Israel demonstrated her ability in the rocket sphere with the launch of the ‘Ofek’ series of satellites on a ‘Jericho’ type launcher, according to foreign reports, and publications abroad also reported the launch of a long-range missile on the eve of the Gulf war."
Three wars, many confrontations and almost 50 years of hostility and suspicion between Israel and Syria did not leave any doubt with regard to the slim chances of implementing a weapons control agreement between the countries. Without it, security sources assumed, the two countries would refuse to reduce the size of their forces, even if peace prevailed between them. Israel would refuse because of the missile threat from the faraway countries. Syria would insist on maintaining the status quo, making it possible to retain her standing as a regional military power both against Israel and the threatening countries to the east.
In this fluid situation, security sources said, the accelerated development of anti ground-to-ground missile defense methods and means is essential.
Operational missile interception systems could play a key role and were likely to lead in the end to stability in the Middle East.
"These means would reduce the effectiveness of missiles launched against civilian populations in countries involved in the peace process and safeguard the agreements reached.
"In this way, it would also be possible to safeguard the freedom of action of an external observer force supervising the implementation of the peace agreement, if it is sent to the area."
The continuity of the process can, in the view of security sources, be achieved by opening a "broad defense umbrella" comprised of an interception and mobile defense systems against short-range missiles.
"Security sources believe, however, that there is no magic solution in thesesystems. Even if full peace exists with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, Israel will be forced to maintain her military and technological superiority and a high level of alert to meet any sudden changes of conditions in the arena."