Saudi Arabia develops missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads with China’s help

The Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has been known to speak his mind when he feels that it is warranted. In a TV interview in March 2018, he stated unequivocally that: ‘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.’ That statement followed his justification for calling Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, the new Hitler of the Middle East and deriding Iran and its army. It would be no exaggeration to state that the Crown Prince does not hold Iran in high regard.

Based on three sources, the CNN reported that US intelligence had identified sensitive information about the expansion of the Saudi ballistic missile program. However, at the behest of the White House, these findings were previously withheld from the US Congress. Whats even more explosive that Saudis found Chinese support in the nuclear project.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. In his interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes last March, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said: “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.”

Therefore, not only an arms race of the Saudis with Iran is a threat to the region, but also Israel in the longer term. Moreover, the American system of alliances in the region could falter.

SAUDI ARABIA displays Chinese-made DF3 ballistic missiles  (photo credit: Courtesy)
SAUDI ARABIA displays Chinese-made DF3 ballistic missiles

According to the CNN, Democrats in Congress are indignant over the denial of this important information. For there are increasing signs that the Kingdom under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) is seeking nuclear potential, as Iran canceled the Nuclear International Agreement 2015.

A few years ago, Jonathan Scherck, a former U.S. intelligence contractor, published a book called Patriot Lost, alleging that China delivered new DF-21 ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia in 2003-2004.

The Trump government is selling nukes and technology to the Saudis despite growing protests from Congress with fierce arms and ammunition for the war against the Houthi militia in Yemen. But due to an international agreement dating back to 1987, ballistic missiles are excluded. Obviously, the Saudis have turned to China for these systems.

In this Nov. 13, 2018 satellite image from Planet Labs Inc that has been annotated by experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, a suspected Saudi ballistic missile base and test facility is seen outside of the town of al-Dawadmi, Saudi Arabia. A military base deep inside Saudi Arabia appears to be testing and possibly manufacturing ballistic missiles, experts and satellite images suggest, potentially thrusting the kingdom into a weapons program it long has criticized its archrival Iran for possessing. (Planet Labs Inc, Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP) ORG XMIT: ARE502
Saudi Ballistic Missile base outside the town of Al-Dawadmi.

In January, the Washington Post reported for the first time on the possible construction of a rocket factory in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi delegation seen at Chinese pavilion at China International defense electronics exhibition (CIDEX).

The US intelligence agencies and the Saudi embassy in Washington initially refused to comment on the CNN report. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said Saudi Arabia and Beijing enjoyed a “comprehensive strategic partnership” and that both countries had “friendly cooperation in all areas, including the sale of weapons.” However, this does not infringe international law, nor is it the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

DF-3 Ballistic Missile

Saudi Arabia concluded a large-scale military exercise with a display of its Chinese- made Dongfeng 3 ballistic missiles this week, showcasing the missiles for the first time in a veiled warning to Iran, a defense expert told The Jerusalem Post.

Saudi Army paraded DF-3 Missile

The Dongfeng 3 (DF-3) has a range of up to 3,300 kilometers, and can carry two-ton warheads. It can be used to strike targets that are much closer than the maximum range, said Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies.

In 2013, a satellite photo of a Saudi missile base showed launch pads that pointed at two cites – Tehran and Tel Aviv – but the intended recipient of Saudi Arabia’s missile warnings is Iran, Inbar said.

Satellite images of the Saudi military base in al-Watah appears to show engine testing ground and rocket production facilities 
Satellite images of the Saudi military base in al-Watah appears to show engine testing ground and rocket production facilities

The DF-3 missiles have been in Saudi Arabia’s possession since 1988, when Riyadh purchased them from China, but until now, the Saudis have refused to acknowledge possession of them. On Tuesday, that policy dramatically changed.

“Saudi Arabia’s power has been known for years, but until yesterday, they never displayed these missiles,” Inbar said.

If operational the suspected factory would allow Saudi Arabia to manufacture its own ballistic missiles, experts warned 
If operational the suspected factory would allow Saudi Arabia to manufacture its own ballistic missiles, experts warned. A rocket base at al-Watah first became public in 2013 after Jane’s Defense Weekly published satellite images of the military facility, suspected of housing Chinese ballistic missiles.

The fact that the missiles are old does not mean they are inactive, he stressed. They must be fueled right before launch, and loaded onto trucks that serve as launch vehicles.

Inbar listed three reasons behind the highly unusual display of Saudi firepower.

In 2007, the world learned (likely through a CIA leak) that Saudi Arabia purchased more modern Chinese missiles, Dongfeng 21s (DF-21), which have a range of 1,500 km., and are considered to be substantially more advanced than DF-3s, Inbar added.

Source Washington Post

DF-21s have their own launch pads, and they don’t require a transfer to vehicles before being fired.

The Saudis have yet to put any DF-21s on display, but Inbar said he would not be surprised if, after Tuesday’s parade, “We might see Saudi Arabia conduct a missile test.”

That could have implications for a regional missile arms race, as other Arab states have concealed ballistic missile programs, Egypt foremost among them.

Planet Lab Image

Janes Report

Media reports of a Saudi ballistic missile base in Al-Watah first surfaced in the form of an article published in July 2013 by IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. The site revealed satellite imagery that appeared to show surface-to-surface missile sites being constructed to accommodate the deployment of Chinese Dongfeng DF-3A intermediate-range ballistic missiles, purchased in the 1980s during a brutal war between regional foes Iraq and Iran.

Chinese Help

The question remains where Saudi Arabia gained the technical know-how to build such a facility. Lewis said the Saudi stand closely resembles a design used by China, though it is smaller.

Chinese military support to the kingdom would not come as a surprise. The Chinese have increasingly sold armed drones to Saudi Arabia and other Mideast nations, even as the U.S. blocks sales of its own to allies over proliferation concerns. Beijing also sold Riyadh variants of its Dongfeng ballistic missiles, the only ones the kingdom was previously believed to have in its arsenal.

Asked by The Associated Press on Friday about the base, China’s Defense Ministry declined immediately to comment.

“I have never heard of such a thing as China helping Saudi Arabia to build a missile base,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor China are members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, a 30-year-old agreement aimed at limiting the proliferation of rockets capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear bombs.

Saudi Arabia, along with Israel and the United States, have long criticized Iran’s ballistic missile program, viewing it as a regional threat.

Pakistani Help

Asked if Riyadh’s decision to lift the curtain on the missiles might be interpreted as a warning that Saudi Arabia would begin its own nuclear weapons program, should Iran go nuclear, Inbar said such a message cannot be ruled out.

“Rumors of secret Pakistani-Saudi nuclear deals have been known for years,” he said.

“The Pakistani chief of army staff [Gen. Raheel Sharif] was present at this military parade. He sat next to the Saudi defense minister [Crown Prince Salman].”

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