32. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Bahrain1

283380. Subject: Bahrain’s Request for Hawk Missile System. Ref: Manama 1512 and related.2

1. Secret-entire text.

2. Summary: We are prepared to undertake substantive discussions with the GOB in regard to its request for purchase of the improved Hawk missile air defense system.3 Our agreement to enter discussions with the GOB on the I-Hawk is conditioned on the Bahraini battery becoming associated with the Saudi air defense network in a manner to be worked out by the Bahrainis and Saudis. We assume GOB will seek Saudi funding. Our agreement to discuss the supply of theI-Hawk to Bahrain would be subject to granting an exception tothe National Disclosure Policy and normal 36 (B) review procedures4 in-cluding both Presidential approval and congressional review. End summary.

3. Background. The I-Hawk missile system can be employed only in an air defense role. Its range (approximately 35 kilometers) and mission make it an [garble—appropriate weapon?] for Bahrain (and other Gulf states) to use against aerial attack. Over much of the last decade, U.S. policy has consistently supported cooperation among the moderate Arab states of the Persian Gulf in defense, education, industrialization and other fields. The sale of the I-Hawk would serve as a [Page 115] concrete expression of the seriousness of our intent. Such a deployment, moreover, of a defensive anti-aircraft missile system will enable us to credibly deflect possible Bahraini requests for fixed wing aircraft. End background.

4. You are authorized to convey the following points to the GOB. We would suggest that you inform both the Crown Prince/Minister of Defense and the Foreign Minister and leave to your discretion whether to convey these points to other GOB officials.

—We agree to undertake substantive and detailed discussions with the GOB in regard to its request to purchase the I-Hawk missile system;

—The GOB should be aware that any final agreement is subject to granting an exception to the National Disclosure Policy as well as the normal 36(B) review procedures which include Presidential approval and congressional review;

—Our agreement is based on our understanding that Saudi Arabia is prepared to fund the purchase. We have no policy problem with the sale but believe that a separate, wholly Bahraini financed Hawk battery cannot be justified in terms of cost effectiveness;

—We envisage the acquisition of the I-Hawk by Bahrain as an important step in promoting regional air defense cooperation and that it is sensible only in such a regional context;

—We plan to inform the SAG of the substance of our decision;

—We would encourage the maximum possible association of the Bahraini with the Saudi I-Hawk system—and [garble—would expect?] at a minimum, that the air defense commands of the two countries would be linked by a common communications net and by common exploitation of long-range target acquisition radars;

—Such linkage would not deny Bahrain the ability to defend itself independently from attacking aircraft, but does provide economy in logistical support of the system and avoid duplication of systems to the degree possible;

—The USG would be involved only in supplying the missile system and its components to Bahrain;

—Although the sale would be under FMS procedures (because of its dollar value), we would not envision any large or long-term official presence connected with the sale;

—We presume that technicians and training necessary would be contracted to private American firms, as has been done in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This should be done in the closest possible cooperation with the Saudis to avoid duplication of efforts and unnecessary expense;

—We are prepared to send, on a reimbursable basis, a team of air defense experts to Bahrain to consult with the Ministry of Defense and [Page 116] to examine the technical requirements for the establishment of an air defense system once Bahrain informs us that Saudi financing is firm and that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have reached general agreement about associating their two air defense systems;

—If both the GOB and SAG agree, this team could also visit Saudi Arabia to look into requirements for associating the two countries’ air defense capabilities;

—If the GOB decides to pursue the matter further, it should request through the Embassy, a letter of offer for the team;

—There are great complexities associated with the deployment and use of this weapons system. The Hawk missile not only is expensive; it demands highly-trained officers and men to use it effectively. A [garble—Hawk missile?] battery consists of two fire units totalling six launchers supported by radar and computer technicians. Normal staffing is 150–200 men per battery with several hundred more required for logistical, administrative and technical support;

—One Hawk battery of six launchers costs about dols 30 million. Each missile costs dols 135,000. Each launcher has three missiles per load. To this must be added substantial maintenance/logistics training requirements. We believe that the total package cost could reach dols 70–100 million depending on the actual equipment eventually acquired by Bahrain and the degree of Bahraini use of Saudi support facilities;

—If, after considering all of the above, the GOB should continue in its desire to purchase the I-Hawk, it should be aware that theI-Hawk will go out of production in the next two–three years, and that orders must be placed within the next twelve months. (FYI: The U.S. will be adopting a new air defense missile system, the Patriot. End FYI.)

5. For Abu Dhabi, Doha and Muscat: If approached by host governments expressing interest in the I-Hawk, you are authorized to inform them of the substance of this cable adding that we are prepared to discuss with them the general subject of their air defense needs in a regional context, but cannot make any commitment to sell a specific system until we jointly agree on military requirements.

6. For Jidda: The contents of this message have been discussed with Ambassador West. He will raise this matter with Prince Sultan when he returns to Saudi Arabia.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D7900502–0072. Secret. Drafted by Countryman; cleared by Saunders, Roscoe Suddarth (P), Douglas E. Keene ( PM/SAS), Sick, A. Peter Burleigh (H), and Murray and in DOD/DSAA and JCS; approved by Benson. Sent for information to Abu Dhabi, Amman, Dhahran, Doha, Jidda, Kuwait, Muscat, USLO Riyadh, Sana, Tehran, the Department of Defense, DA WASHDC, DA//DALO–SAC WASHDC, DA//DAMO–SSA WASHDC, DA//DAMA WASHDC, and USCINCEUR Vaihingen GE. In an October 25 action memorandum to Benson, O’Donohue and Saunders attached a draft of this telegram, noting that the Government of Bahrain had again expressed a desire to purchase one Hawk missile battery and commenting that there was “military justification for the sale.” Benson approved the telegram on October 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P790179–0863)
  2. In telegram 1512 from Manama, July 19, the Embassy reported threats from Ayatollah Sadiq Rohani to revive Iranian claims to Bahrain, noting that Rohani’s statements “are worrisome to GOB.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790332–1048)
  3. In telegram 153170 to Abu Dhabi, June 14, the Department detailed new Bahraini requests for Hawk missiles and the U.S. Government’s dilemma over what to do in light of U.S arms policy toward the lower Gulf region and new regional developments. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790270–0625)
  4. Reference is to Section 36(B) of the 1976 Arms Export Control Act.