An Arab-language newspaper is reporting that Saudi Arabia has purchased the Israel-made “Iron Dome” missile defense system, though Israeli military sources are officially denying that.
The Emirati news website Al-Khaleej reported that the “high-level deal” was mediated by the United States, adding that the Saudis were interested in the purchase to defend against Iran-supplied ballistic missiles fired by Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, the Jerusalem Post said.
The Emirati news site quoted a “high-level diplomatic source” for its story, adding that initially, Israel refused to sell Iron Dome, but only did so after getting security assurances from the Trump administration (and, presumably, the Saudis).
“The kingdom reportedly sought to purchase the defense system in January, the Swiss paper Basler Zeitung reported then,” JPost noted.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which developed and now manufactures Iron Dome, has also denied the sale.
Analysis: For certain, the Saudis and Israelis are united in their opposition to Iran, which has been spreading its influence, weapons, and presence throughout the Middle East in recent years. Besides being suspected of arming the Houthis, with whom the Saudis are at war, Iran has also built up influence and presence in war-torn Syria, helping President Assad and the Russians battle various rebel groups.
But would Israel sell a one-time enemy one of the most advanced (if not the most advanced) missile defense system in the world — even with U.S. security guarantees? It’s certainly plausible given their common enemy, Iran.
In addition, the story has now surfaced twice, so that gives more credibility to it.
It is certainly in Israel’s interests to publicly deny the sale — because it is in the Saudis’ interests not to be seen cooperating closely with Israel on anything just to placate its own public if no one else. There is still a high degree of suspicion of and anger at Israel within the Kingdom.
But times are changing.
Earlier this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent shockwaves through the Arab world when he said publicly Israel has “a right to its own land” while still calling for a formal peace treaty to settle things officially.
That alone opened the door to the possibility of greater cooperation — militarily and otherwise — with Israel.
The U.S., Israel and the Saudis all share the common objective of halting Iran’s advance throughout the Middle East. That mutual cooperation could now have reached the level of the sharing of sophisticated weaponry between former enemies is very plausible.