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US intel implies Saudis boosted missile program: report

King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud makes a speech during the 39th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 9 December, 2018 [Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency]
King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud makes a speech during the 39th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 9 December, 2018 [Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency]

US intelligence indicates that Saudi Arabia has significantly improved its ballistic missile program with assistance from China, according to a report released Wednesday, Anadolu reports.

The development is at odds with decades of US policy geared toward reigning in missile development in the region over fears that proliferation could quickly spark an arms race in the volatile region.

President Donald Trump’s administration did not make the intelligence available to key lawmakers, angering Democrats, CNN reported, citing three anonymous individuals with knowledge of the intelligence.

Those Democrats learned about the intelligence “outside of regular US government channels and concluded it had been deliberately left out of a series of briefings where they say it should have been presented,” CNN reported, citing the sources.

The assessment indicates Riyadh has greatly expanded its ballistic missile capabilities, including infrastructure and technology, via arms purchases from China, according to the report.

It is just one issue related to the administration’s handling of Saudi Arabia that has been kept out of the public eye and out of Congress’ purview by the White House.

READ: Qatar FM: Saudi-led axis hindering resolution of crisis

Senator Tim Kaine said Tuesday that the Trump administration authorized American companies to share nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia shortly after the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The authorizations are among seven granted by Trump since 2017, as Saudi Arabia has been working toward developing its first two nuclear reactors, according to Kaine.

Some in Washington are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Riyadh could trigger an arms race in the Middle East.

Tensions between the White House and Congress over Saudi Arabia have been at a fever pitch in recent months and hit their zenith over Trump’s decision in May to declare a national security emergency to sell billions of dollars worth of armaments to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates without congressional approval.

Those sales had been blocked by Congress since 2018.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen which has killed scores of civilians as well as the Kingdom’s murder of Khashoggi.

Trump, however, has brushed those concerns aside, publicly backing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s denials of responsibility for Khashoggi’s death and vetoing a congressional resolution that would have ended US support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, however, is barred from purchasing ballistic missile technology from the US under the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal pact among 35 countries, including the US, intended to limit the spread of such technologies.

China is not a signatory to the agreement.

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Asia & AmericasChinaMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUAEUS
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