Spy Satellite for UAE Poses 'Serious Threat'

Michael Rotem - Jerusalem Post (International Edition) - November 28, 1992


See J4JP comment following article.

Israeli officials are outraged over a report that the US State Department is weighing the unprecedented sale of a super-secret spy satellite to the United Arab Emirates.

"For years we have been begging the Americans for more detailed pictures from their satellites, and often got refusals - even when Iraqi Scud missiles were falling on Tel Aviv" said one Defense Ministry official.

The Americans have also done their best to deny us all help in building our own reconnaissance satellite. Now they are going to supply the Arab countries with 'binoculars' that will enable them to see every military movement here."
(J4JP: emphasis added)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the UAE request is being considered as part of an overall review of technology transfer policy. The proposed sale has sharply divided the American government agencies that must approve it.

Proponents argue that the pro-Western UAE needs the aerial intelligence to warn against possible attacks by neighboring Iran, and that if it doesn't get the US satellite it will turn to a French manufacturer.

Opponents say such a sale could set a precedent for sales to other countries, and could result in intelligence information falling into enemy hands or being used against the US.

"The purchase of a spy satellite by an Arab country - even not a declared enemy of Israel - might pose a potential serious threat to Israel's technological advantage," Col. (res.) Ze'ev Eytan, an expert on he Middle East military balance, told the Post. "The question is what happens in times of crisis, when seemingly rival Arab countries suddenly join forces against us."

Justice4JP Comments on the above article:

In 1987 Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger submitted a last minute memorandum to the court in which he accused Jonathan of having endangered the security of 2 Arab "allies". Weinberger justified this charge by pointing out that Jonathan had given the Israelis a number of satellite photos which would enable them to attack Iraq's then-secret chemical weapons manufacturing facilities. In Weinberger's twisted view, such an event would not only harm the US' eroding relationship with Baghdad, but it would also increase Saudi Arabia's vulnerability to Israeli "aggression". Publicly, though, all the government would say was that the material Jonathan had provided to Israel had "seriously compromised" US satellite surveillance capabilities. Naturally, when people heard that, they assumed the worst and never bothered to ask for a more accurate explanation.

Although Jonathan tried to warn the Jewish community that the whole satellite issue was a red herring designed to obscure US betrayal of Israel, few believed him. But, as can be seen in the article above, just a few years after his sentencing the US was seriously considering the sale of an entire satellite system to an Arab state. Perhaps US satellite technology wasn't so super secret after all

Granted, Jonathan gave Israel photographic evidence of Iraq's clandestine efforts to build weapons of mass destruction. But by doing so he only compromised Weinberger's pro-Iraqi agenda, not US satellite reconnaissance capabilities. Of course, the fact that Iraq had been given access to U.S. satellite imagery during its war with Iran just further undermines the government's contention that Jonathan harmed US security by providing Israel with similar help. Help, J4JP should point out, which Israel was supposed to have received in any event under the terms of its 1983 intelligence sharing agreement with the U.S.