Saudi Arabia on weapons buying spree

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 13, 2017
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Last week Saudi monarch Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud was in Moscow on his first ever trip. The icebreaking visit was greeted by Russian leader Vladimir Putin with a number of defense deals which will supply a range of weapons to the oil-rich desert Kingdom.

The most important agreement is about S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. It is considered as Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system, and can carry three types of missiles that have the capability to destroy ballistic and cruise missiles.

Already Turkey revealed last month that it has signed an agreement with Russia to purchase the S-400 anti-missile system. It showed that this weapon system is in great demand in the region, which is facing multiple security threats -- mostly due to rivalry among the regional states.

According to a Kremlin statement and media reports, the net worth of deals signed during King Salman visit to Moscow is around 2.1 billion dollars.

Apart from the missile system, Russia also agreed to supply Saudi Arabia with Kornet-EM anti-tank missile systems, Buratino TOS-1 heavy flame thrower systems, AGS-30 automatic grenade launchers and Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles.

As the king was cutting deals with Putin to arm his country to the teeth against rivals, reports emanating from Washington showed that United States was ready to sell Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile-defense systems worth 15 billion dollars.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the U.S. would provide Saudi Arabia with 44 THAAD launchers, 360 THAAD interceptor missiles, 16 mobile fire-control and communication stations, seven THAAD radars and 43 trucks generators and electrical units.

Saudi leaders showed their intention for a massive weapons procurement drive in May this year when President Donald Trump visited the country. It was announced by the White House officials that Riyadh made agreements for weapons worth $350 billion over 10 years. It was also stated that the sale of arms worth $110 billion will take effect immediately.

The weapon deals should be seen in the larger context when Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is trying to transform the economic landscape of his country ahead of drying oil revenues due to potential decrease in reservoirs and the global shift to renewable energy sources.

His Vision-2030 is timely and accompanies several measures to reform the country and society. Recent changes like lifting a ban on women drivers have the potential to inject new life into the female population.

They are expected to feel empowered and energized to play a proactive role in the development of Saudi Arabia while adhering to the moral and religious values of their country.

The defense deals also mirror up the precarious security situation in the Middle East, which is facing wars, terrorism, civil strife and increasing economic and ideological rivalries. Saudi Arabia like other countries has a right to defend itself against odds and buy equipment needed to ward off potential threats in the future.

Saudi intervention in Yemen and its feud with Qatar have shown the limits of its military power. In both cases, it has not been able to achieve all objectives. The perceived weakness should have necessitated the speeding up of the reform process and the strengthening of the defense of the nation.

In the middle of Saudi-Qatari tiff, the United States agreed in June to sell weapons including fighter jets worth $12billion to Qatar. Advanced 36 F-15 combat aircraft are part of the agreement. Interestingly, it all happened just days after President Donald Trump accused Doha of sponsoring terrorism.

Qatar having the latest weapons may not be a major worry as it is a small country. But its alignment with Iran is quit unsettling for Saudi Arabia. With Turkey coming forward forcefully to support Qatar, the cracks in the Saudi-led Sunni alliance have been become more glaring than ever before.

The situation in Syria has also tilted in the favor of countries and groups that are not in the ambit of Saudi Arabia. In another sensitive development, Iraq has also drifted towards Iran.

The Saudi policymakers should have all this in mind while making the pricy defense purchases. But the efforts to arm the country should not divert focus from the economic reforms. The monarch and the crown prince should also continue to engage with regional countries to develop peaceful resolutions to disputes and problems.

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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