Saudi Arabia has stepped up its missle program with China's help, a CNN report said Wednesday. According to CNN's report, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration kept this information from Congress, angering Democrats.
The report noted that the U.S. administration initially did not share this development with the relevant people in Congress, making Democrats believe that it was deliberately omitted from briefings where it should have been present.
The development has called into question whether a new arms race is heating up in the Middle East, and whether the U.S. is tacitly allowing Saudi Arabia to work toward countering its regional rival Iran.
In an interview last year on CBS' "60 Minutes," Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that "without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible."
On Wednesday, Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, told Army Radio that Iran is "weaponizing uranium enrichment without making a weapon."
The former top nuclear watchdog official said that according to his rough estimations, Iran could have weapons-grade enriched uranium in "perhaps half a year, seven to eight months maximum, if they put everything into it."
Three sources who have direct knowledge of the matter told CNN that based on the new intelligence, the previously-held idea that Saudi Arabia does not have "the ability to build its own missiles or even effectively deploy the ones it does have" has changed.
After Google Earth published satellite images of the site of Saudi Arabia's first nuclear reactor in April, Bloomberg analysts concluded that the reactor is nearing completion.
This information set off alarm bells for arms-control experts, since Saudi Arabia is not party to the agreement that other nuclear powers follow to ensure that their nuclear programs are used for civilian and not military purposes.
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said that Saudi Arabia could rely on China or Russia for building nuclear reactors, and neither of those countries care about nuclear non-proliferation
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