Saudi Arabia has imported sensitive missile technology from the Chinese military and is manufacturing its own ballistic missiles, according to Saudi advisers and officials familiar with U.S. intelligence, raising new worries of a Middle East arms race.
The Saudi effort is the latest in a series of moves by U.S. allies in the Middle East to increase military cooperation with China in a trend that has angered the Biden administration during a period of heightened animosity between Washington and Beijing.
The advancements in the Saudis’ program come as Middle East countries fear that the U.S. is no longer willing to play a decisive role in the region, a feeling that was punctuated in Saudi Arabia in 2019 when the Trump administration didn’t respond militarily when Saudi oil fields were hit in an attack blamed on Iran.
“There’s a perception in Riyadh of a waning U.S. commitment to their security,” said Becca Wasser, a defense analyst at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank. “There’s this idea that the only way that Saudi can protect itself is to rely on itself.”
Saudi Arabia is also engaged in a long-running war in Yemen, where Houthi rebels repeatedly attack Saudi Arabia using drones and ballistic missiles. More than 10,000 people have died since Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive on Yemen in 2015.
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