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Saudi Arabia considers buying Israeli missile defence system

September 15, 2021 at 1:21 pm

Israeli soldiers walk past an Israeli Iron Dome defence system. [AFP/Gil Cohen-Magen/Getty]

Saudi Arabia has reached out to Israel over the possibility of procuring missile defence systems, according to trade-specific news and analysis magazine Breaking Defence. The Iron Dome manufactured by Israel’s defence technology company Rafael and Barak ER produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are two of the options being considered by Riyadh.

Israeli defence sources told the magazine that such a deal would be realistic, as long as both nations received approval from Washington. One source added that Saudi Arabia’s “interest in the Israeli systems has reached a very practical phase.”

The same sources are reported as saying that Riyadh has already held low-level talks with Tel-Aviv for several years about such systems. The talks apparently began to take on more energy once it became clear that the US was going to remove its air defence assets from the Kingdom.

That decision has already been made with Washington quietly removing the American THAAD and Patriot batteries from Prince Sultan Air Base, located outside Riyadh. The batteries had been deployed in the Kingdom following a 2019 strike on Saudi oil production facilities. The Iran-backed Houthis, whose mid and long-range ballistic missiles are intercepted by US-made Saudi air defence systems, were held responsible for the attack.

READ: Is it a Saudi, US divorce, or are they rebuilding their relationship?

Washington is unlikely to stand in the way of a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, Riyadh’s purchase of Israeli-manufactured weapons is expected to accelerate arms sales with the Arab countries that normalised relations with the occupation state a year ago as part of the Abraham Accords. Saudi Arabia has maintained the position that full normalisation with Israel will only happen after it ends its occupation of Palestine.

Retired Brigadier General Giora Elland, former director of Israel’s National Security Council and a former head of the Planning Department of the Israel Defence Forces, said that he expects no objections from Washington to the sale of these Israeli systems to “friendly Gulf countries”.

Riyadh is also said to be considering other options for its missile defence, including China and Russia.

The Iron Dome, Israeli military systems which intercept missiles - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The Iron Dome, Israeli military systems which intercept missiles – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]