INTELLIGENCE – China Is Helping US Ally Saudi Arabia Develop Ballistic Missiles – But How Much So?

A missile from the Israeli Iron Dome, launched during the Operation Pillar of Defense to intercept a missile coming from the Gaza strip. / Photo by Israel Defense Forces and Nehemiya Gershuni via Wikimedia Commons

Recent U.S. intelligence reports are confirming that Communist China is actively helping Saudi Arabia manufacture its own ballistic missiles – ostensibly to counter Iran. This comes as Team Biden desperately tries to salvage the defunct 2015 Obama-Biden Iran nuclear deal.

One of the primary issues in renegotiating any nuclear deal is Iran’s refusal to include its own hyperactive ballistic missile program in any talks.

CNN reports that:

The Biden administration is now confronted with increasingly urgent questions about whether Saudi’s ballistic missile advancements could dramatically change regional power dynamics and complicate efforts to expand the terms of a nuclear deal with Iran to include restraints on its own missile technology — a goal shared by the US, Europe, Israel and Gulf countries.

However, the role of China in this development is raising the biggest concerns.

According to CNN:

US officials at numerous agencies, including the National Security Council at the White House, have been briefed in recent months on classified intelligence revealing multiple large-scale transfers of sensitive ballistic missile technology between China and Saudi Arabia, according to two sources familiar with the latest assessments.

This assessment is burnished by new satellite images obtained by CNN which indicate the Saudis are currently manufacturing ballistic missiles at a site previously constructed with Chinese assistance.

CNN notes that:

Satellite photos taken by Planet, a commercial imaging company, between October 26 and November 9 show a burn operation occurred at a facility near Dawadmi, Saudi Arabia, according to researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who told CNN this is “the first unambiguous evidence that the facility is operating to produce missiles.” 

Despite the concern over the China connection, few details are “known about the ballistic missiles that Saudi Arabia is building at this site, including important details like range and payload,” reports CNN, adding:

Considering the facility in question was built with Chinese assistance and new intelligence assessments showing Saudi Arabia has recently purchased sensitive ballistic missile technology from China, it is possible that the missiles being produced there are of Chinese design, according to Lewis.

But there is also evidence Saudi Arabia has looked to other countries for help with developing a ballistic missile program in recent years, making it difficult to identify exactly which weapons system the Kingdom is now building at this facility, [Jeffrey Lewis, a weapons expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies]…noted.

While the Trump administration was reportedly quietly aware of this missile technology collaboration at least by 2019, how deeply the Saudis are relying on Communist China to develop their new missiles should be a top question now for U.S. intelligence and Team Biden. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - paulcrespo.substack.com - PAULCRESPO.COM

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