Israeli-Palestinian tensions and continued talk of military action against Iraq has raised fears of a wider war in the region. For background on the possible use of weapons of mass destruction in future conflicts, we provide summaries on the missile capabilities of countries in the Middle East adapted from a forthcoming Carnegie study, Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction (June 2002).
Israel's Missile Capability
As the most capable military power in the region, Israel fields both short-range Jericho I (500 kilometer with a 500 kilogram payload) and medium-range Jericho II (1,500 kilometer) missiles. Both missiles use solid propellant and are nuclear-capable. Israel's successful satellite launches using the Shavit SLV suggest that Israel could quickly develop missile platforms with much longer ranges then the Jericho II. Israel has little need to develop a longer-range missile system, however, because its current capabilities are adequate to provide a strike capability to its potential adversaries. The single-stage Jericho I missile began development in the 1960s with French assistance and was first deployed in 1973. The two-stage Jericho II began development in the mid-1970s and was first deployed in 1990. The extended range and 1000 - kilogram payload of the Jericho II makes it a likely nuclear delivery vehicle. Both missiles are land- and rail-mobile. Israel is believed to have deployed 100 Jericho missiles. It continues to test the Jericho II, with the last test occurring in late June of 2001.
Iran's Missile Capability
Iran has aggressively pursued foreign technology in its development of the Shahab III, a MRBM with a range of 1,300 kilometers. The Shahab III is based on the North Korean No Dong missile, and it is not believed that Iran is capable of domestically producing the missile's engine. Iran flight-tested the Shahab III in July 1998 and July and September of 2000, with the July 2000 test offering conclusive signs of success. The Department of Defense estimates that Iran "has the capability to deploy limited numbers" of the Shahab III. In August 2001 Deputy Director of the CIA John McLauglin stated that "the Iranians will soon field the 1,300 kilometer-range Shahab III" and press reports in October 2001 indicated that Iran has launched serial production of this MRBM. Iran has also publicly acknowledged the development of the Shahab IV, which its defense minister originally called a ballistic missile but later categorized as a space-launch vehicle. The Shahab IV has an estimated range of 2,000 kilometers and is likely a derivative of the Russian SS-4. The Iranian defense minister also announced plans for a Shahab V but its range remains speculative. As for the long-term goals and capability of Iran's missile program, the CIA states, "Iran is likely sometime in the next 10 - 15 years to test an ICBM that could hit the United States . . such a test could come as early as 2005, although that is less likely given the ground Iran must still cover." The 2001 NIE notes that Iran is "likely to take until the last half of the decade" to launch an ICBM/SLV, but also notes that one agency judges that Iran is unlikely to achieve a successful test before 2015.
Iraq's Missile Capability
Under UN Security Council Resolution 687, Iraq cannot have missiles with ranges greater then 150 kilometers. Although many Iraqi Scuds were destroyed under UN supervision, fears remain that several dozen missiles remain unaccounted for and may have escaped destruction. Since December of 1998 UN inspectors have been unable to monitor Iraqi missile development programs. Furthermore, Iraq's short-range, solid-fueled Ababil 100 and liquid-fueled Al Samoud projects allow it to maintain missile production lines that can be upgraded quickly for longer-range missile production if sanctions are dropped. The CIA also believes that Iraq is hiding a small force of Al Hussein SRBMs, with ranges of 650 kilometers. It also has noted that "Iraq has rebuilt several critical missile production sites" and that, "given the likelihood that missile development work is still going on in Iraq. . . it, too, could develop an ICBM capability sometime in the next 15 years with foreign assistance." The 2001 National Intelligence Estimate, however, indicates that in the near term Iraq is likely to focus upon rebuilding its regional strike capability, rather than developing a longer system. "For the next several years at least, Iraq's ballistic missile initiatives probably will focus on reconstituting its pre-Gulf War capabilities to threaten regional targets and probably will not advance beyond MRBM systems."
Egypt's Missile Capability
Egypt is not included on U.S. threat assessment reports regarding missile development programs. The CIA, however, states that Egypt "continued its long-standing relationship with North Korea on ballistic missiles." A United Press International report in June of 2001 cited one U.S. intelligence official as stating that there are 50 to 300 North Korean technicians on the ground in Egypt working on a missile program and that Egypt is close to acquiring No Dongs from North Korea. Egyptian officials have repeatedly denied this claim, and the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy said of the unclassified CIA report to Congress, "The unclassified report talks about stuff from five years ago, it was a limited program, and that's where it stopped." Following the June 21, 2001 bilateral meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, State Department Spokesman Phillip Reeker stated that "both countries recognize the importance of maintaining missile control regimes in the region; the importance of focusing on nonproliferation. It's important to the interests of both our countries. And so that will continue to be a subject which we will raise."
Libya's Missile Capability
The presence of UN sanctions from 1992 to 1999 are believed to have severely limited Libya's ability to obtain and develop the proper technology, materials, equipment and expertise that are critical to MRBM and ICBM development. The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Libya lacks the infrastructure required to develop an ICBM by 2015. Owing to the lack of this infrastructure, Libya's only paths to obtaining this capability would be either the purchase of a completed operational system or the whole-scale importation of the requisite foreign technical and scientific expertise to design, develop, and produce a missile production infrastructure.
Libya is therefore heavily reliant upon foreign suppliers, and its mostly probable route to longer-range missile development will come through upgrades to its aging Scuds or purchases of whole missile systems. Since the removal of sanctions in April of 1999, Libya may have stepped up its procurement efforts. In November 1999 a shipment of 32 crates of components for Scud missiles were intercepted by British customs agents on a flight bound for Tripoli via Malta. One report stated that the components included parts for a jet propulsion unit which can increase the range of the Scuds to as much as 1,000 kilometers, but this was not confirmed by any other sources. In April of 2000, a Taiwanese businessman en route to Tripoli was arrested in Switzerland after missile propulsion components were found in his luggage. Libya has also received ballistic missile-related goods and technical know-how from Russian entities as well as missile-related items, raw materials, and other help from Chinese entities. Serbian and Indian assistance were also cited in an unclassified CIA report to Congress.
Reports have also circulated that Libya has purchased No Dong MRBMs from North Korea, but Western defense and intelligence sources have not confirmed such a purchase, acknowledging only that Libya has an interest in acquiring a longer-range missile system. Indigenously, Libya may be continuing its efforts to develop the Al Fatah missile, which the Libyan government claims will have a range of 1,000 kilometers. This missile has yet to be tested, however, and the U.S. Department of Defense assesses the liquid-fueled missile's current range to be only 200 kilometers.
Syria's Missile Capability
According to the U.S. Defense Department, Syria has continued to work on solid-propellant rocket-motor development with aid from Iran and has also received equipment and assistance for its liquid-fueled missile program from Chinese, North Korean, and Russian entities. The U.S. Department of Defense, however, views Syrian efforts in solid-propellant rocket motors as "laying the groundwork for a future option to develop a modern, solid-propellant SRBM" and does not believe the development program to be indicative of a longer-range program. The 2001 NIE confirmed that Syria is unlikely to gain an interest in ICBM development before 2015 but indicated that strategic imperatives may lead to interest in acquiring an MRBM such as the No Dong. However, with its current arsenal of mobile Scud-B, Scud-C, and SS-21 SRBMs, Syria already possesses the capability to strike deep into the territory of potential regional adversaries like Iraq, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey. Syria tested a 700-kilometer range Scud D on September 23, 2000 following the a successful test of Israel's Arrow missile defense system. Israel alleges that Syria tested a 300-kilometer range Scud B on July 1, 2001 and Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz Daily reported that this missile was tested with a chemical warhead. Other reports however, did not corroborate the presence of the chemical tip, and Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Talas denied that the missile test occurred altogether.
- Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction (June 2002)
- "Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East," the First Analysis Piece in This Three Part Series
- "Chemical and Biological Weapons in the Middle East," the Second Analysis Piece in This Three Part Series
- Israel Country Resources Page
- Iraq Country Resources Page
- Iran Country Resources Page
- "A Much Less Explosive Trend," by Joseph Cirincione, Washington Post- Outlook Feature Piece, 10 March 2002
- "The Declining Ballistic Missile Threat": A paper and presentation by Joseph Cirincione to the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 18 February 2002. Also includes congressional testimony, and the project's ballistic missile chart
- "Foreign Missile Development and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015," Unclassified Summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, National Intelligence Council, December 2001
- "Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions,"CIA's Biannual Unclassified Report to Congress, 30 January 2002