DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A military base in Saudi Arabia seems to test and probably produce ballistic missiles, experts and satellite images suggest evidence of the type of weapon program that he has long criticized for his best Iranian ruler

The further increase in stakes for any such program are comments by powerful Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia who said last year , that the kingdom will not hesitate to develop a nuclear weapon if Iran does. Ballistic missiles can carry nuclear warheads to targets thousands of miles away.

Officials in Riyadh and the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. long-time partner for the security of the kingdom at a time when ties have already been tested by the murder of the Columnist Washington Post Jamal Hashogi and the war led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. in Monterey, California, said large investments in missiles were often related to interest in nuclear weapons. "I would be a bit angry that we underestimate the ambitions of Saudi Arabia here," said Lewis, who studied satellite imagery.

The images first reported by The Washington Post focus on a military base near Al- He drove, about 230 kilometers (145 miles) west of the capital of Saudi Riyadh. Jane's Defense Weekly initially identified the base in 2013, suggesting that its two launch sites seem to be Israel-Iran-oriented with ballistic missiles previously purchased from China.

Satellite images in November show what structures look big enough to build ballistic missiles with fuel. At the base of the base, a test bench for rocket engines can be seen – the type on which the rocket is located on its side and tested on-site. Such tests are key for countries trying to produce working missiles, experts say.

Michael Elean, the senior missile defense associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington, also reviewed the satellite images and said they appeared to show ballistic pictures. missile program.

The question remains where Saudi Arabia has acquired technical know-how to build such a facility. Luis said the Saudi stand is similar to a design used by China, although it is smaller.

Chinese military support for the kingdom would not be surprising. The Chinese are increasingly selling armed unmanned airplanes to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries even when the United States blocks its own sales of allies for distribution. Beijing also sold variants of the Ronadic ballistic missiles "Donfang", the only ones the kingdom believed to have been in its arsenal.

Asked by the Associated Press on Friday for the base, the Chinese Ministry of Defense refused to comment.

"I have never heard of such a thing as China, helping Saudi Arabia build a missile base," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chuning.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor China are members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, a 30-year final agreement aimed at limiting the proliferation of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear bombs.

Saudi Arabia, along with Israel and the United States, have long criticized Iran's ballistic missile program, seeing it as a regional

Iran, whose nuclear program remains so limited by its deal with world powers in 2015, that the atomic program is peaceful. But Western powers have long feared pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian program, the accusations refused by Tehran.

Iran relies on its ballistic missiles as its own air force is mainly fighter aircraft before 1979. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has a fleet of modern F-15s, typhoons and tornadoes – which raises the question why Saudis will choose to develop missiles.

Elman, the defense expert, said while Saudi pilots are qualified, the kingdom still needs US logistics support.

"Today, they rely heavily on direct American support. There is no absolute assurance that US forces and supporting functions will support Saudi Arabia's attack on Iranian targets, Elleman told AP. "Ballistic missiles are a sensible hedge against these concerns."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been the subject of ballistic missiles fired from neighboring Yemen by the Hutti rebels, some of whom have reached Riyadh. Researchers, Western states and UN experts say Iran has been supplying these missiles with the rebels, something Tehran and the rebels deny.

Saudi Arabia pursues its own nuclear program, and Prince Mohammed, King Salman's 33-year-old son, is next to the throne, said he would compete for atomic weapons if Iran were to develop. "Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any atomic bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran develops a nuclear bomb, we will follow the example as soon as possible," Prince Mohammed said in an interview with CBS "60 Minutes" in an interview last March.

The Saudi program will only complicate the efforts of the United States and its Western allies to limit the Iranian ballistic missile program STRATFOR, a private intelligence company based in Austin, Texas, said that "if Saudi Arabia moves into a test phase, the United States will be pressed to take action "

Congress has a growing criticism of Saudi Arabia following the killing of Hashogi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, allegedly committed by members of the

If the Saudis produce "medium-range systems capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the answer will be much healthier, albeit possibly from the point of view of the public" , said Elma . "Congress, on the other hand, can escape, as it will be seen as another insult to the United States and regional stability."

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