Tuesday 19 September 2017

Iran and Israel are targeted by Saudi missiles

Colin Freeman

SAUDI ARABIA is targeting both Israel and Iran with powerful ballistic missiles, new satellite photography has revealed.

Images analysed by experts at 'IHS Jane's Intelligence Review' have revealed a hitherto undisclosed surface-to-surface missile base deep in the Saudi desert, with capabilities for hitting both countries.

Analysts who examined the photos spotted two launchpads with markings pointing north-west towards Tel Aviv and north-east towards Tehran. They are designed for Saudi Arabia's arsenal of lorry-launched DF 3 missiles, which have a range of 1,500-2,500 miles and can carry a two-tonne payload.

The base, believed to have been built within the past five years, gives an insight into Saudi strategic thinking at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf. While Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, it has long maintained back-channel communications as part of attempts to promote stability in the region.

The two countries also have a mutual enemy in Iran, though, which has long seen Saudi Arabia as a rival power in the Gulf. Experts fear that if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would seek to follow suit.

Analysts believe that the kingdom is in the process of upgrading its missiles, although even the DF3, which dates back to the 1980s, is itself potentially big enough to carry a nuclear device.

The missile base, which is at al-Watah, about 125 miles south-west of the capital, Riyadh, was discovered during a project by IHS Jane's to update its assessment of Saudi Arabia's military capabilities.

It serves as both a training and launch facility, with the missiles stored in an underground silo built into a rocky hillside. To the north of the facility are two circle-shaped launch pads, both with compass-style markings showing the precise direction that the launchers should fire in.

The Chinese-made missiles are not remotely guided and therefore have to be positioned in the direction of their target before firing.

"One appears to be aligned on a bearing of approximately 301 degrees and suggesting a potential Israeli target, and the other is set to target Iranian locations," said the IHS Jane's article, published today.

While the lorry-launched missiles could theoretically be fired from any location, the idea of having pre-planned directional markers was to ensure that they could be deployed in accurate fashion as quickly as possible, said Allison Puccioni, an image expert at IHS Jane's.

Robert Munks, deputy editor of 'IHS Jane's Intelligence Review', said: "Our assessment suggests that this base is either partly or fully operational. We cannot be certain that the missiles are pointed specifically at Tel Aviv and Tehran themselves, but if they were to be launched, you would expect them to be targeting major cities.

CONFLICT

"We do not want to make too many inferences about the Saudi strategy, but clearly Saudi Arabia does not enjoy good relations with either Iran or Israel."

Officials at the Saudi Embassy in London did not respond when contacted. The Israeli Embassy in London said: "We have no comment on this matter."

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia considers itself one of the pre-eminent powers in the Gulf region, but its Sunni Islam leadership has long been at loggerheads with the Shia mullahs of Iran. The conflict in Syria, in which Saudi Arabia has backed the Sunni-dominated rebels and Iran has backed the Shia-dominated regime of President Bashar al-Assad, has heightened fears of a wider sectarian conflict. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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