Saudi Arabia Is Ratcheting Up the Middle East’s Arms Race

Co-authored by Sajjad Safaei

New evidence has surfaced that China is assisting Saudi Arabia in building a ballistic missile program. Although initial reports about the program emerged in 2019, the Saudi capability to successfully launch missiles had remained uncertain. We now have the “first unambiguous evidence,” researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies told CNN, that China is helping Riyadh to develop such advancements.

It represents an unmistakable inflection point, not only in Chinese military assistance to Saudi Arabia but in the Middle East’s arms race. Iran is sure to recognize that these Saudi advancements represent potentially dire implications for its defense posture. Tehran is likely to respond accordingly.

But if China is helping to push the region into dangerous and uncharted waters, it’s important to recognize that this dynamic has been decades in the making—and that insular Western policy helped pave the way to this grim crossroads.

Saudi Arabia is today filled to the brim with the world’s most advanced weapons. A steady flow of arms—chiefly from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom—has made it the largest importer of arms worldwide. Between 2016 and 2020, the country received a staggering 11 percent of global arms imports. Indeed, regardless of whether it is in a state of war or peace, Saudi Arabia’s favorite response to any geopolitical challenge appears to be a military shopping spree.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.