Saudi Arabia Unveils Ballistic Missiles in Military Parade, But Why Now?

Saudi military soldiers march during a military parade marking the Hajj in October 2013

Amr Nabil/AP

AA Font size + Print

Saudi military soldiers march during a military parade marking the Hajj in October 2013

For the first time ever, Saudi Arabia showed off ballistic missiles it's had since the 1980s. To find out why, analysts point 1,200 miles northeast of Riyadh. By Rachel Oswald

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the first time displayed its medium-range ballistic missiles — a move that analysts interpreted as primarily aimed at Iran.

A pair of Dongfeng-3 missiles were rolled out during a military parade in Riyadh. The Saudi government bought the missiles from China in 1987 but had refrained for decades from publicly showing them off, according to an analysis by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The weapons traditionally are kept deployed at a base to the south of the Saudi capital, where they are positioned for possible launches against Iran, said Washington Institute fellow Simon Henderson.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia reportedly acquired more sophisticated Chinese Dongfeng-21 missiles, but there were no reported sightings of those missiles during Tuesday’s parade.

The missile display signals Saudi Arabia’s determination to counter Tehran’s growing strength, as well as its readiness to act independently of the United States,” Henderson said.

Saudi Arabia is worried that ongoing talks between world powers and Iran will fail to produce a deal that permanently ends Tehran’s potential to construct a nuclear weapon. A prominent Saudi prince recently urged other Arab Gulf nations to develop advanced atomic capabilities in order to create a “balance of forces” against Iran.

Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif was in attendance at Tuesday’s parade. His presence will likely “reawaken speculation” that the Saudi government could attempt to acquire Pakistani atomic weapons in order to counter Iran, Henderson said.

In a blog post for Arms Control Wonk, Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, posited that Saudi Arabia was trying to send a message to the Obama administration over “its current discomfort with the way the U.S. has handled Syria, the Arab Spring and the Iranian nuclear issue.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download
  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Top 5 Findings: Security of Internet of Things To Be Mission-Critical

    As federal agencies increasingly leverage these capabilities, government security stakeholders now must manage and secure a growing number of devices, including those being used remotely at the “edge” of networks in a variety of locations. With such security concerns in mind, Government Business Council undertook an indepth research study of federal government leaders in January 2017. Here are five of the key takeaways below which, taken together, paint a portrait of a government that is increasingly cognizant and concerned for the future security of IoT.

    Download
  • Coordinating Incident Response on Posts, Camps and Stations

    Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge. An effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel. This whitepaper discusses what a modern dispatch solution looks like -- one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges to ensure next generation safety and response on Department of Defense posts, camps and stations.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.