A nice scoop from Newsweek Wednesday, as the magazine pulled back the curtain on a clandestine international arms deal approved by the CIA but kept out of the public eye until now.
Jeff Stein at Newsweek reports the CIA gave its blessing to Saudi Arabia's purchase of Chinese missiles in 2007 — on the condition that the CIA examine those weapons and make sure they were not capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
These are China's DF-21 short-range missiles, similar to the model represented here in this animation from Next Media Animation. They pack a punch and have a reputation for precision.
That makes the weapons a real threat to Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran. The powerful short-range missiles seem ideal for targets in Tehran, just 800 miles north of the Saudi capital.
Newsweek cites experts who say the new missiles are an upgrade from the Chinese DF-3s Saudi Arabia used in the first Gulf War. Stein reports those missiles weren't accurate enough to use without risking massive civilian casualties. (Via NBC)
When Saudi Arabia did buy those older Chinese missiles in 1988, that made its allies in Washington very upset. So this time, the Saudis came to the U.S. and revealed the planned purchase beforehand.
The CIA then spent $700,000 to meet with the Saudis in Washington and then travel to Saudi Arabia to make sure these new missiles could not carry nuclear weapons. (Via Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Navy, Wikimedia Commons / BroadArrow)
Saudi Arabia doesn't have a nuclear weapon as far as the outside world knows. As is, Israel and Pakistan are the only Middle East nations that do.
And with negotiations underway to halt Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. probably doesn't want to give Iran's leaders any more reasons to think they need a nuclear weapon. (Via ITN)