Chicoms supplying intermediate range missiles to Saudis

Foreign Policy:
Jeff Stein of Newsweek has reported that "a well-placed intelligence source" has confirmed that Saudi Arabia purchased Chinese-made DF-21 ballistic missiles in 2007 -- apparently with the approval of the George W. Bush administration.

It's the first intelligence source to confirm, albeit anonymously, something that's long been rumored. It is a good bit of reporting -- and I say this not simply because Stein quotes me. If Saudi Arabia bought the missiles in 2007, it has taken a long time for a reporter to get a source to actually confirm the suspected sale. But the timing of the leak isn't surprising. Saudi Arabia is growing increasingly concerned about Iran, and over the past few years it has started talking a lot about its Strategic Missile Force. In the course of doing so, Riyadh has hinted that it has bought at least two new types of ballistic missiles -- one of which is possibly the medium-range DF-21, which, in China, comes in both conventional and nuclear flavors.

The Saudi Strategic Missile Force dates to the 1980s, when Prince Khalid bin Sultan -- then commander of the Air Defense Force -- traveled to China to purchase DF-3 missiles. The Dong Feng 3, or "East Wind 3," is also medium-range and nuclear-capable, but it uses liquid fuel and is not very mobile. So, many folks expected that the Saudis would eventually replace or augment it, either with another purchase from China or with one from Pakistan. In 1999, Prince Sultan, then the defense minister,visited Kahuta Research Laboratories in Pakistan, where A.Q. Khan was enriching uranium and building copies of North Korea's Nodong missile, which Pakistan calls the Ghauri. At the time, one U.S. administration official told the New York Times that the visit was "definitely eyebrow raising."

A few years ago, Jonathan Scherck, a former U.S. intelligence contractor, published a book called Patriot Lost, alleging that China delivered new DF-21 ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia in 2003-2004. (He has also written a thinly veiled screenplay.) Although Scherck occasionally veers toward the conspiratorial, he's believable when he sticks to what he knows. The book's passages about how the intelligence community monitors changes in missile deployments by tracking construction at bases and the shipping practices of certain Chinese proliferators struck me as informed. Some of his details are wrong, and Scherck clearly wrote the book from memory, which is a fragile thing. But the U.S. government is concerned enough that it's pursuing legal action to seize any money Scherck's made on the book and prevent its further distribution. He's not making all this up.
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There is much more.

This appears to be clearly aimed at offsetting threats from Iran which are very real.  The sales must have been known to US intelligence at the time they were made.  It is a further reflection that the Saudis do not want to have to rely on just the US for its defense.

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