Saudi Arabia appears to be building its own ballistic missiles with China's help


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  6 comments

By:   Courtney Kube and Saphora Smith

Saudi Arabia appears to be building its own ballistic missiles with China's help
Saudi Arabia is building its own ballistic missiles with the help of China, according to United States intelligence assessments and satellite images.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Saudi Arabia is building its own ballistic missiles with the help of China, according to United States intelligence assessments and satellite images.

The assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies is that the kingdom, which is long thought to have acquired missiles from Beijing, is now manufacturing its own, according to a source familiar with the matter and a U.S. official.

Satellite images obtained by NBC News also suggest that Saudi Arabia is producing ballistic missiles at a site west of the capital, Riyadh, according to researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, in California.

"The key piece of evidence is that the facility is operating a 'burn pit' to dispose of solid-propellant leftover from the production of ballistic missiles," wrote Jeffrey Lewis and David Schmerler of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute.

They added that the site "appears to have been constructed with Chinese assistance."

The news was first reported by CNN on Thursday. The images were provided by commercial imaging company Planet Labs PBC.

Planet Labs PBC

The development could shift security calculations in the Middle East and further complicate the Biden administration's efforts to coax Iran back into its nuclear deal with world powers. It could also add another layer of complexity to Washington's relations with Beijing.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional foes and there will be concern that Riyadh's manufacturing of ballistic missiles could alter Tehran's calculations on its possible agreements in talks aimed at reviving the 2015 accord. The new development comes days before the talks, which have struggled to make any headway, are expected to resume in Vienna, and may make Iran even more unlikely to give up its own ballistic missiles.

"If Iran were to enter into negotiations over its missile programme, it would be unlikely to accept limits that did not also apply to other countries," wrote Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, in an article about Saudi Arabia's ballistic missile program published by the institute in August.

Fitzpatrick, a former State Department official, said at the time that other than a general desire to keep pace with Iran, Riyadh's motivations for acquiring ballistic missiles were not entirely clear. Unlike Tehran, however, Saudi Arabia is not known to have initiated any work to develop a nuclear warhead for its missiles, he added.

Ballistic missiles are rocket-propelled weapons that can carry conventional explosives as well as nuclear warheads.

Nevertheless, the fact that Saudi Arabia is now known to be manufacturing its own ballistic missiles will spark concerns of a ramped-up arms race in a highly tense region that is already riven with conflict.

The Saudi Ministry of Media did not respond to requests for comment.

Britain on Friday condemned a launch of ballistic missiles by Iran in war games conducted this week.

"These actions are a threat to regional and international security and we call on Iran to immediately cease its activities," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

In 2018, former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear accord and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. Tehran has since reduced its compliance with the deal, announcing that it would enrich uranium to up to 60 percent purity — significantly closer to the amount needed to make an atomic bomb.

In the past, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been clear that if Tehran develops a nuclear bomb, Riyadh will also do so.

"Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," he told CBS in 2018.

The crown prince is attempting to transform Saudi Arabia from an oil-dependent nation into an economic powerhouse that is more accepted in the West.

The Saudis have long been U.S. allies and enjoyed a close relationship with the Trump administration, but those efforts to overhaul the country's image were tainted by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Meanwhile, the continued close military relationship between Saudi Arabia and China will also probably be of concern to the Biden administration as it tries to manage a complex and fraught relationship with Beijing, criticizing its human rights record while also cooperating with Chinese leaders on major global threats like climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

Asked to respond to these fresh indications it was aiding Saudi Arabia's push to produce ballistic missiles, China said it has always opposed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and implements strict export controls on missiles and related technologies, according to a statement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"China and Saudi Arabia are comprehensive strategic partners," the ministry said. "Such cooperation does not violate any international law and does not involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

It added that Beijing has always opposed unilateral sanctions and "will continue to take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its own rights and interests."

Saudi Arabia has been known to have purchased missiles from China in the past but has never built its own, the source familiar with the matter and the U.S. official confirmed.

Ed Flanagan, Lubna Hussain and Reuters contributed.


jrDiscussion - desc
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

Those spy satellites must be awful powerful if they can tell that the people working on the ground are Asian.  What seems odd to me is that I know China has a relationship with Iran, and imports Iranian oil, and at the same time is said to be aiding the Saudis with building up its military ability to oppose Iran.

Junior Participates
1.1  Snuffy  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    one month ago

Yes they are.  When I was in the Air Force, I was in airborn photographic systems maintenance. One of the lessons we had was when Kennedy was president, they were trying to get approval for the SR-71. So back in 62, they had Kennedy hold a newspaper open while in the Rose Garden while they overflew at 75,000 feet. They developed the pictures to present to Kennedy for approval and you were able to read the newspaper from the photo's.  That was back in 62 and these systems have only gotten better.  Long since gone are the long lenses and funky aperture settings, it's all electronic now.  

Nowhere Man
Junior Expert
1.1.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  Snuffy @1.1    one month ago

If it ever became of strategic importance to know the count of hairs on the back of someone's hand, within 20 minutes, they would not only have that number, they will know the length of each one...

What they can do today is pure science fiction to the average individual...

Junior Participates
2  Snuffy    one month ago

It makes sense that Saudi Arabia is looking to build up it's military and add ballistic rockets, it's rather concerned with Iran. It wasn't all that long ago that it's military was shown by Iraq to be totally inadequate for the current day and it's relationship with the West has not been the best in recent years. And all countries will sell weaponry to other countries, the desire for that hard cash is tough to resist.

Professor Principal
3  Kavika     one month ago

When it comes to selling arms the US leads the way and no one else is really that close. 

Nowhere Man
Junior Expert
3.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  Kavika @3    one month ago

Ain't that the truth...(when they aren't giving them away)


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