7. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Arab Emirates1

220667. Subject: UAE Request for TOW’s. References: (A) 76 State 178831,2 (B) 76 Abu Dhabi 1911 (Notal),3 (C) 76 Abu Dhabi 2101 (Notal),4 (D) 76 Abu Dhabi 2135 (Notal),5 (E) Abu Dhabi 1921 (Notal),6 (F) Manama 723.7

1. In response to Embassy Abu Dhabi’s recent inquiry regarding status of decision concerning sale of TOW anti-tank missile system to [Page 21] UAE (ref E), Department and DOD have conducted intensive review of issue similar to that carried out in September 1976. During review, both agencies concentrated in particular on question of whether or not TOW has become weapon common enough in inventories worldwide to be considered non-sophisticated in Gulf military context. Issue of Abu Dhabi defense justification for TOW also was closely examined.

2. Consensus of expert opinion emerging from review is that (a) TOW still is sufficiently sophisticated weapon to require compelling defense requirement justification for selling it to lower Gulf states, and (b) that sufficient defense justification—in form of specific armor threat to UAE—does not exist. Department therefore has decided not to pursue issue further at this time and Embassy should so inform MG Khaldi and Sheikh Khalifa.

3. In informing UAEG, post should draw on following: (a) Administration’s policy is to minimize U.S. arms sales abroad, avoiding sales which go beyond legitimate defense requirements. (b) In this context, USG examined question of TOW sale in light of degree to which UAE’s acquisition of weapon would meet realistic armor threat. (c) We were unable to identify threat to UAE for which TOW was appropriate defensive weapon. (d) USG remains committed to assisting UAE develop appropriate defense capability and welcomes further discussion of how we might be helpful to modernization of federal defense forces within U.S. policy framework.

4. For Manama and Doha: Bahrain and Qatar were included in recent review since they are remaining lower Gulf states to which we have not sold TOW, and Bahrain on several occasions has already informally expressed interest in acquiring this weapon. Conclusion in case of Bahrain and Qatar was same as in UAE case. While we have no desire to initiate discussion of TOW with these governments, Ambassadors are instructed to use above responses in parrying any future TOW requests.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770334–0882. Secret. Drafted by David M. Winn (NEA/ARP); cleared by Douglas Keene (PM/SAS) and in DOD/ISA; approved by Twinam. Sent for information to Manama, Doha, Jidda, Kuwait, and Muscat.
  2. In telegram 178831 to Abu Dhabi, July 20, 1976, the Department responded to a UAE request for TOW missiles, noting that the U.S. Government had not furnished these missiles to the United Arab Emirates or other nations as it would contribute to an “unnecessary arms buildup in region.” The Department instructed: “You could say that our desire is to give UAE arms requests the most careful consideration. In this connection, we would be interested in UAE rationale for renewed request for TOW in light of our common desire for stability and avoidance of an arms race in the region.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760278–0206)
  3. Telegram 1911 from Abu Dhabi, July 14, 1976. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760272–0094)
  4. In telegram 2101 from Abu Dhabi, August 3, 1976, the Embassy reported a discussion between Sterner and UAE General Khaldi regarding planned U.S. military training and weapons orientation for the UAE military. During the meeting, Sterner “noted specifically with regard to training that we would not believe it appropriate to offer training or demonstrations on weapons which were clearly not applicable to UAE needs.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760298–0887)
  5. In telegram 2135 from Abu Dhabi, August 5, 1976, the Embassy evaluated the threat posed by the armored forces of the United Arab Emirates’ neighbors, the United Arab Emirates’ defense needs, and the U.S. policy of avoiding an arms race in the lower Gulf region as rationale for supplying TOW missiles. It concluded: “We do not minimize negative arguments on this question and recognize that decision on TOWs for UAE merits careful consideration. Nevertheless, we genuinely believe weight of argument is in favor of positive decision in this case. We particularly do not find persuasive argument that Department says is ‘basic reason’ for its previous negative decision—that UAE faces no present threat from armored attack. Today’s peaceful border can overnight become the direction from which a hostile attack can be directed. In the Arabian Peninsula alone we have seen this happen in the case of Kuwait and Iraq, of Oman and the PDRY. In each of those cases we decided TOW was an appropriate weapon to supply in view of threat these states faced. It is certainly not unreasonable for UAE to be viewing this evidence and deciding that it would like to be prepared before the threat actually emerges.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760303–0427)
  6. Telegram 1921 from Abu Dhabi, July 17, 1976. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760276–0467)
  7. In telegram 723 from Manama, March 29, Cluverius discussed the question of U.S. arms sales to Bahrain. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770162–1118)