Saudi Arabia has reportedly purchased a missile system owned and operated by Israel as the two regimes move towards making their secret relations public.
Citing high-level diplomatic sources, the Emirati news website al-Khaleejonline reported on Wednesday that Riyadh had purchased the so-called Iron Dome system from Tel Aviv following US-mediated secret meetings in Washington.
The report said that the deal, worth more than tens of millions of dollars, is expected to be implemented in December, with the first missile system being placed on the Saudi border with Yemen, where the kingdom is waging a deadly war.
Initially, the sources said, Israel refused to sell “Iron Dome” to any Arab country under the pretext that it would endanger the regime’s “interests in the region.”
After Washington’s intervention, however, Tel Aviv agreed to the sale.
“Saudi Arabia will pay for the completion of the Iron Dome deal in excess of tens of millions of dollars, and there are pledges to be signed through the US mediator that this system does not pose any danger to the security of Israel and its allies in the region in the near or long term,” the diplomatic sources said.
They also noted that Saudi Arabia will buy more military equipment from Israel if the system operates well.
“If the Iron Dome succeeds in intercepting rockets that pose a threat to the kingdom, there will be talks with Israel to buy additional military systems and open the door for military exchanges between the two sides,” the sources said.
Haaretz on Thursday said Israeli officials had “strongly” denied the sale, without naming them.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have no diplomatic relations, but they are widely believed to have secret liaisons. Latest reports say the two regimes are working behind the scenes to establish formal contact.
Critics say Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with Israel would undermine global efforts to isolate Tel Aviv and affect the Palestinian cause in general. They say Riyadh has gone too far in its cooperation with the Israelis as a way of deterring Iran as a regional rival.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a brutal war, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country’s former Riyadh-allied regime and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The offensive initially consisted of a bombing campaign, but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces into Yemen.
The imposed war, however, has so far failed to achieve its stated goals, thanks to stiff resistance from Yemeni troops and allied Houthi fighters.
Several Western countries have been supplying Saudi Arabia with advanced weapons and military equipment, sparking widespread criticism by human rights groups.
Riyadh has also boosted its defenses against retaliatory missile attacks by the Houthi movement, which mostly targets military positions south of the kingdom and other key areas.