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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And we're off to the Nuclear races - Saudi Arabia wants to buy "Iskander" missiles with nuclear capabilities of Russia.

And we're off to the Nuclear races - Saudi Arabia wants to buy "Iskander" missiles with nuclear capabilities of Russia. (Moscowtimes).

Saudi Arabia may become the first foreign buyer of Russia's deadly Iskander-E missile system, Kommersant newspaper reported Wednesday in the wake of a meeting between the Russian and Saudi foreign ministers in Moscow, citing unidentified Russian defense industry sources.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir officially confirmed his country's interest in the Russian missiles at a press conference on Tuesday, and according to IHS Jane's 360 defense analysis group, the Saudis are interested in a wide variety of hardware, including new frigates for their navy.

“Intensive contacts are taking place between the military delegations and specialists from both countries and a wide range of intended types of armaments from Russia is being discussed, including Iskander missile systems,” al-Jubeir was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Tuesday.

But according to Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think tank, it is highly unlikely that a Saudi-Russian arms deal will go through.

The Iskander is a very deadly system, and we don't know how Saudi Arabia might use it … and they are close allies of the U.S., so there is a risk that if we deliver Iskanders to them, the U.S. will get to inspect the system and then develop countermeasures against it, because it's also designed to hit U.S. allies in Europe, such as Poland,” Pukhov said.

According to unidentified military industrial sources quoted by Kommersant, Saudi Arabia has submitted to Russia a concrete proposal for buying Iskander systems, along with a handful of other high-value hardware, but pre-contract negotiations have not started.

The sources, however, cautioned that Russian and Saudi arms deals have historically fallen through before reaching agreements, and Saudi Arabia in recent years has rapidly become the largest arms importer in the world, buying almost exclusively U.S. equipment.

Yury Barmin, a Russian expert in the Middle East arms trade, said he doubted that Saudi Arabia is trying to use arms procurements as a means to influence Russian policy in the region, and is more likely sending a message to the U.S. and Iran that it is unhappy with the recent Iran deal in which the U.S. and other countries agreed to soften economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for promises regarding its nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia in 2007 purchased Chinese-made DF-21 medium range ballistic missiles, which are similar to Russia's Iskander, but Beijing modified the system to ensure the Saudis couldn't carry nuclear warheads. Iskanders can carry nuclear warheads, and Barmin argued that Saudi Arabia might want that option.

Saudi Arabia thinks that the [Iranian nuclear] deal last month unties Iran's hands and that the country will still go ahead and develop nuclear weapons, so it may be Riyadh’s way of showing the world it reserves the right to do the same,” he said.

Moreover, it's doubtful that the Saudis are trying to use an arms contract to influence Russian policy toward Syria, since the 2013 attempt at a $15 billion buy didn't work, Barmin concluded. Hmmm.....Don't you feel safe now that Pres. Hussein Obama has saved us from the Iranian nukes?Read the full story here.

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