Why is Saudi beefing up its military arsenal? Is it all defense capabilities?
Last May, during a visit to Riyadh, US President Donald Trump signed with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman a ten-year, $350bn arms deal, $110bn of which took effect at signing.
At the time, the U.S. State Department said the arms package “supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian related threats.”
The deal included tanks, helicopters, ships and other kinds of hardware.
When the two leaders met again at the White House this March, Trump showed charts of eight purchases the Saudis have finalized, worth $12.5 million dollars.
“Another chart featured four sales that were still pending, but will be worth nearly $20 billion,” said Business Insider.
‘Improving defense capabilities’ was again the theme.
Arab news reported that the State Department has approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of 6,600 TOW anti-tank missiles, part of a bigger $1 billion package that also includes helicopter maintenance and spare parts for military vehicles.
Where is Saudi going with this?
Houthis on the attack
Saudi air defense forces intercepted and destroyed a Houthi ballistic missile headed towards Najran on Saturday, Al Arabiya TV announced.
The missile was intercepted at 10:20 am local Saudi time. Last Thursday Saudi air defense also intercepted a missile by Houthi militia on Jazan.
Exactly 5 days earlier, Houthi missile shrapnel killed one Egyptian civilian and injured two others on Saudi territories.
Defense capabilities against Houthi rebels are proving effective, but the kind of defense or arms capabilities Saudi is purchasing surely have other ideas in mind, don’t they?
The Iran-Saudi War?
UK’s Guardian daily, Trump has moved to decertify the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “and is widely expected to reinstate sanctions on Tehran by a deadline of 12 May.”
Trump’s recent hiring of John Bolton as national security advisor who argued in favor of bombing Iran and North Korea, is a move that matches the Saudi crown prince’s talks of fierce opposition to the JCPOA.
“(the crown prince) issued a sharp warning that the failure to reimpose sanctions on Tehran could escalate into military conflict in the region,” reported the Guardian.
“If we don’t succeed in what we are trying to do, we will likely have war with Iran in 10-15 years,” Bin Salman told the Wall Street Journal this week.
The Boeing deal
The US Seattle Times said crown prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Boeing’s Everett jet assembly plant Friday and announced a military deal with the jet maker.
“Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg signed a memorandum of agreement to set up a $450 million joint venture in Saudi Arabia that will provide maintenance and repair support for the kingdom’s military aircraft,” said the daily.
“The agreement announced in Everett on Friday will form a joint venture between Boeing and state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) that will become the sole provider of maintenance support for the Saudi air force’s fleet of military jets.”
Seattle Times also said Boeing agreed to transfer the technological know-how required “to install weaponry on these aircraft as well as localize the supply chain for spare parts.”
“The idea is to build up local expertise within Saudi Arabia, furthering the crown prince’s Vision 2030 plan and the agreement will create 6,000 jobs in Saudi Arabia,” Boeing said.
The joint venture agreement on Saturday aimed at localizing more than 55% of the maintenance and repair of fighter jets and helicopters in the Kingdom, Saudi state-news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported.