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Is Saudi Arabia Building Its Own Ballistic Missiles? – OpEd

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American intelligence agencies have revealed that Saudi Arabia is now actively working on manufacturing its own ballistic missiles with the help of China, according to what was announced by the American “CNN” network. New satellite images obtained by CNN indicate that the Saudis are already manufacturing ballistic missiles at a site previously established with Chinese help. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, in response to a question by CNN network about whether there are any transfers of sensitive ballistic missile technology between China and Saudi Arabia, said that the two countries are “comprehensive strategic partners and have maintained friendly cooperation in all fields, including In the field of military trade.” He added “This cooperation does not violate any international law and does not involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,”

CNN also quoted some of its sources as saying that the administration of US President Joe Biden is preparing to punish parties linked to the transfer of Chinese ballistic missile technology to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. American observers believe that the United States is unlikely to impose sanctions on Riyadh so as not to lose them more, especially with some differences that have emerged recently between the two sides during the Biden era over human rights. The White House said the president intends to “recalibrate” his relationship with a key US ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. A State Department statement said that from now on the United States must prioritize the rule of law and respect for human rights. Also another sign of disagreement between the two side, is regarding the decisions of the “OPEC +” group led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, to continue policies to reduce crude oil production, and to reject American pressures to change oil production policies and pump black oil in abundance to the markets. In which President Biden described it as unfair, considering that Saudi Arabia has the ability to calm the oil markets.

Despite the strong relations that have linked the two countries since the establishment of the Kingdom in 1932, and the adoption of firm policies by the United States towards the region since “Eisenhower” (1957), “Nixon” (1969), and “Carter” (1980), which considered the gulf a vital area for its interests, and pledged to use all means to respond to any challenges facing American interests in this vital region. Recently there has been a change in United States’ policy towards the region, especially after its reliance on the hydraulic fracturing to produce most of its oil and gas needs, as well as the shift in the priorities of its foreign policies in restricting the rise of China. 

The erosion of the role of the United States as a guarantor of Gulf security, and the withdrawal of some of its military bases from the region, forced its allies in the region to search for different alternatives, particularly with the development of Iranian military capabilities and its approach to produce its nuclear bomb.

Riyadh’s shift east towards China, the largest competitor to the United States in the defense and weapons industries, has raised the concern of the United States of America, especially when it sees its most important allies in the region resorting to its most important competitors at the regional and international levels, not only to buy ballistic missiles now, but to manufacture them locally.

Although America claimed that the Kingdom’s manufacture of missiles will complicate the scene in the region and will hinder the efforts of the Biden administration to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. However, Iran is closer to becoming a nuclear state and has exceeded the vessel of ballistic missiles, despite what was said about the sanctions and agreements concluded by the United States with Iran. It is also the first supporter of building Israel’s military and technological capabilities and supporting it with about $3 billion annually in the military field.

The truth is that the United States and other Western countries are not worried about Saudi Arabia’s possession of these missiles, but they fear Saudi Arabia’s possession of the technology needed to manufacture its missiles for several reasons.

First, it does not want its allies in the region to form strong relations with China, which has recently developed strategic relations with most countries in the region and has become the largest trading partner with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, regardless of its military and technological cooperation.

Second, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that purchase most of its weapons from the United States and other superpowers and owning this technology means losing hundreds of billions of arms deals with it. As well as, Saudi Arabia’s possession of this technology and its manufacture of ballistic missiles mean most of the countries in the region will deliberate developing and producing there weapons also.

Moreover, with the great competition between Riyadh and Tehran in the region, where the latter has passed the ballistic stage and recently it’s closer to become a nuclear power, according to observers. Therefore, it is not excluded that Saudi Arabia is seriously looking to acquire its nuclear weapons in order to find a balance with Iran, especially after the United States nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, which is now being repeated with Biden’s accession to power.

In August 2020, the Wall Street Journal quoted Western officials as saying that Saudi Arabia with the help of China had set up a facility to extract what is known as uranium yellowcake, which is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. This also was clear by the statement of the Saudi crown prince MBS in an interview with the American CBS channel that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will do the same as soon as possible”. This means that Saudi Arabia is now certain that the nuclear agreement is not serious, and that it must rely on itself to find a balance with Iran’s ballistic and nuclear capabilities and it has to reconsider its strategic alliances.

*Yahya A. Koshaimah is a Ph.D. student in the field of International Relations at the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University. He did his M.Phil in International Relations at Jilin University, China, and another master’s degree in business administration (MBA) at Punjab Technical University, India. He is an independent researcher. His research interests include Yemen and the gulf issues. Yahya can be reached at [email protected] 

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