Satellite imagery reportedly revealing a ballistic missile facility deep in the Saudi desert spotlights Riyadh's increased investment in its independent warfighting capabilities, U.S. defense experts say.
This, they believe, indicates a growing desire by the longtime ally to be able to take offensive measures without the approval of its main weapons sponsors in Washington.
"There's an arms race underway," Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and Arab affairs expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told CNBC. "Whiplash policy changes in Washington have had their impact on Riyadh: Saudi authorities are no longer going to be constrained by White House whispers. The Saudis are demonstrating that they can take matters into their own hands."
Images analyzed by missile defense experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, and first reported by The Washington Post, appear to show the testing and possible manufacturing of ballistic missiles. These can carry nuclear warheads to targets thousands of miles from their launch point. International powers have sanctioned Iran for its own frequent testing of the weapons.