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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Saudi Arabia Seen to Build Missile Factory
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Satellite imagery suggests that Saudi Arabia has built its first facility to produce ballistic missiles, according to U.S. open-source analyses completed in late January. Such a factory would augment Riyadh’s existing arsenal of Chinese-supplied, intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Images of the al-Watah missile base analyzed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey indicate that Saudi Arabia has expanded the facility to include a rocket-engine production and test facility, although it is unclear if the facilities are actually producing missiles at this point. The plant’s characteristics indicate that the Middle Eastern power is pursuing ballistic missiles with solid-fueled rocket engines, which can be launched more quickly than liquid-fueled systems. Analysts asked by The Washington Post to study the images concurred with the Middlebury team.

The existence of a Saudi ballistic missile production facility and the uncertain future of the Iran nuclear deal raises concerns that Riyadh may be pursuing capabilities needed for a covert nuclear weapons program. Saudi Arabia is currently negotiating a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States and has been reluctant to forgo uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing for fuel production or agree to more stringent international oversight as part of the deal.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in March 2018 that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible."

Saudi Arabia already possesses ballistic missiles that it purchased from China. Riyadh displayed one system, the DF-3 with a range of 3,000 kilometers, at a parade in 2014. Beijing reportedly took steps to ensure that the missiles could not be used to deliver nuclear warheads. The al-Watah base was likely built in 2013 to house these systems.—KELSEY DAVENPORT