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Satellite images raise suspicions of Saudi Arabia's first ballistic missile factory

MbS has also expressed a desire to obtain nuclear weapons to counter Iranian threats [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 January, 2019

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According to the Washington Post, several weapons experts have examined a number of satellite images, showing the suspected factory at a missile base in al-Watah, near Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has constructed its first known ballistic missile factory, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing satellite images examined by experts.

The suspected facility was discovered at a missile base in al-Watah, near the capital Riyadh. It was unclear from the satellite images whether the facility was completed or functional.

If in operation, the suspected factory will enable the kingdom to manufacture its own ballistic missiles, the Washington Post said.

All three missile experts who reviewed high resolution images of the site for the paper said the photographs showed a rocket engine production and test facility, probably using solid fuel.

The complex, which appears to have been built in 2013, when current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MbS] was defence minister, shows the kingdom's intention to eventually manufacture its own missiles.

MbS has also expressed a desire to obtain nuclear weapons to counter the threat from Iran.

In November, the country's foreign minister said his country will develop its own nuclear weapons if Iran does.

"If Iran acquires nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same," Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview with CNN.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has long said it would match any Iranian weapons development, but Jubeir's renewed vow came after US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of an accord designed to prevent Tehran's alleged quest for the bomb.

And it came amid growing tension between the Sunni kingdom and the Shia Islamic republic over Iran's support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been firing rockets across the border. 

Riyadh, which leads a regional coalition that intervened in Yemen's civil war to fight the Houthis, accuses Iran of supplying the militia with ballistic missiles.

"These missiles are Iranian manufactured and delivered to the Houthis. Such behaviour is unacceptable. It violates UN Resolutions with regards to ballistic missiles. And the Iranians must be held accountable for this," Jubeir told CNN.

"We will find the right way and at the right time to respond to this," he warned. "We are trying to avoid at all costs direct military action with Iran, but Iran's behaviour such as this cannot continue. This amounts to a declaration of war."

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