A December 23, 2021 report on CNN revealed that Saudi Arabia is manufacturing its own ballistic missiles with the help of China. So far there has been no official Saudi response to the report, but it provoked critical responses in the Saudi media. Some of the articles accused CNN of selective and slanted reporting intended to serve the Biden administration in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, especially in light of the network's claim that "Saudi's ballistic missile advancements could dramatically change regional power dynamics and complicate efforts to expand the terms of a nuclear deal with Iran to include restraints on its own missile technology."
The articles in the Saudi press did not refute the report on Saudi Arabia's development of missiles. On the contrary, they claimed that Saudi-Chinese cooperation in the development of ballistic weapons is not new, and that Saudi Arabia is entitled to obtain any weapons it needs to defend its security, at any time, in light of the growing threat from Iran. The articles criticized the CNN report for failing to note that Saudi Arabia, unlike Iran, is developing missiles for defensive rather than offensive purposes and is committed to international law. They also claimed that the publishing of this report at this time was meant to ease the pressure on the U.S. administration, which does not wish to take a tough position on Iran's ballistic missiles at the Vienna nuclear talks, despite the threat posed by these missiles to the security of the region and even to the security of the U.S. troops deployed there.
Source: Edition.cnn.com, December 23, 2021.
The following are excerpts from two of these articles.
Former Editor Of Saudi Daily: Saudi's Missile Program Is Defensive, Not Offensive Like Iran's
Tarek Al-Homayed, the former editor of the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: "The CNN television network rushed to report that Saudi Arabia is acting to manufacture ballistic missiles with the help of China. We Saudis welcome this report, because it means that we have undertaken to defend ourselves against the ballistic missiles that Iran aims at our country by means of the Houthis. But there are also other missiles aimed at us, in addition to the Iranian ones, namely the ones I call 'media missiles', launched for example by CNN, especially in the [abovementioned] report…
"The network devoted a long report to what it termed Saudi-Chinese collaboration, without referring, as professional [standards require], to the ballistic missiles that Iran aims at Saudi Arabia by means of the Houthis. The network neglected to note that the Saudi efforts are defensive, rather than offensive, for the Saudi 2030 [Vision] seeks cooperation rather than aggression and Saudi Arabia has never been an aggressive country. The report of the American network is therefore misleading. Moreover, the former U.S. ambassador in Bahrain, Adam Ereli, tweeted in response to the report: 'Good for #SaudiArabia. Taking matters into its own hands, because can't rely on #USA. Perhaps if we had a coherent, consistent #MiddleEast policy and treated allies with respect, this wouldn't be happening.'
The meaning of this response is that, behind the [CNN] report are facts this American channel did not mention, and perhaps did not wish to mention. Why do I say this? Because reports on Saudi-Chinese cooperation are nothing new, but now they say that former U.S. president [Donald Trump] ignored it, and that is the point [of the current report]. The information leaked to the American [CNN] network – which [the network] handled without checking the facts – was meant to serve two goals: first, to ease the international pressure on the U.S. administration to be tougher on the Iranian ballistic missiles at the Vienna negotiations, and second, to draw attention to the fact that not only Iran manufactures ballistic missiles but also Saudi Arabia. That is an argumentative and unserious tactic, for every country is entitled to defend its security against external attacks, and, as already mentioned, Saudi Arabia is not an aggressive country.
"Sane people understand that it was [only] a matter of time before Saudi Arabia diversified the sources of its weapons, for logical reasons. That is why the former U.S. ambassador to Bahrain made the abovementioned remark, and many support what he said. This leak also shows that the [U.S.] has no serious [intention] of dealing with Iran's ballistic missiles and drones, even though they threaten Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as the security of shipping in the Gulf and even the U.S. forces in the region! This leak also proves that these 'media missiles' have several goals, including to 'demonize' [Saudi Arabia], and we have been speaking of this here [in this paper] since the era of [former U.S. president Barack] Obama in 2009, when the same media outlets were used that are now trying to undermine the security of our region and the security of the moderate countries in it. The point is not the content of the report, but its selective phrasing, which misleads any reader who is unaware of the Iranian crimes in our region. In this manner the Western left tries to burnish Iran's [reputation]. This does an injustice to the facts and to the security of our region."
Columnist In Saudi Daily 'Okaz: Iran's Ballistic Weapons Are The Real Problem Today
Columnist Hamoud Abu Taleb wrote in the state daily 'Okaz under the headline "So What If The [Saudi] Kingdom Has Developed Ballistic Missiles?": "Some American media outlets have started claiming that the [Saudi] kingdom has managed to develop ballistic missiles. This arouses questions and suspicions regarding the [decision] to present these claims in the media and to highlight them at this particular time, when negotiations are underway to renew the Iranian nuclear deal, and when one of the greatest mistakes made in these negotiations [in the past] was ignoring Iran's ballistic missiles. This caused Iran to proudly display these missiles to the world and to fire many of them from Yemen by means of its Houthi agents and by means of its experts who supervise the launching of these missiles into the [Saudi] kingdom. Is there an intention to continue ignoring the ballistic missiles in any new deal with Iran, this time on the grounds that the kingdom now has also has them[?]
"The [Saudi] kingdom is entitled to keep any weapons it deems necessary to defend its national security, at any time. But today, facing a growing threat from the Iranian ballistic arsenal, and when the security of the Gulf and of the Arabs faces provocations by Iran, there is even greater need and greater justification for the kingdom to possess ballistic and other weapons. In any case, the [Saudi] kingdom and Iran cannot be equated in terms of their political maturity, prudence and commitment to international laws, agreements and conventions that limit the use of weapons of every kind.
"An Iranian nuclear weapon may not pose a threat at the moment, although it will become a very real threat in the near future. But Iran's ballistic missiles are a real and present threat, because [Iran] is already attacking with it. America and its Western allies insist on ignoring this danger, and now some are hinting that they will continue to ignore it in any nuclear agreement that might be reached, and that all kinds of excuses will be found for this, such as the leaked report on Saudi ballistic weapons, which, true or not, has been circulated in the media. This inclination will serve Iran, which will be able to continue to endanger the national security of the Gulf and of the Arabs and to threaten the region's peace and stability."