By Mark Pyruz
There are differences in need and motives between the missile forces of Iran Saudi Arabia but also somewhat similarities.
For the Iranians, effectively shut out from top-of-the-line strike aircraft and knowing from the experiences of their adversary Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War the consequences of having second-best combat aircraft (Iran fielded the F-14 and F-4), the Iranians reason that a more economical and effective means of strike capability comes in the form of ballistic and cruise missiles. There's also the added bonus of indigenous development and production: something that can not be taken away by the political disfavor of a foreign provider, as was the case when American defense manufacturers withdrew their support for purchased defense equipment following Iran's revolution.
As for the Saudis, they possess a very different motive and reasoning but also rationales that are not too dissimilar from the Iranians. The Saudis have full access to Western defense providers and have purchased what appears on paper as a most impressive force of combat strike aircraft. So why should they also opt for a ballistic missile force or upgrade for such? For one, the Saudis have got to realize that without Western manufacturer and foreign logistical support, their combat aircraft are rendered idle on the ground. Undoubtably they've noticed the Iranian example, where far less training and maintenance is involved in possessing a ballistic missile force armed with conventional payloads. What's more, should war in the region come and as part of its second-strike Iran targeted energy production/transport corridors and fields within GCC territories, the Saudis have the option of a measured armed response to an Iranian ballistic missile attack, in kind, with a ballistic missile attack of their own. Additionally, for the Saudis, with their abundance of wealth, foreign-sourced defense purchases have always been used for the purposes of engaging political ties, and as such acquisition or upgrades for a ballistic missile force further enables ties with an Asian nation (such as a powerhouse like PRC), their militaries and their arms exporters.
So one needn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that a nuclear yield is the intention down the road for either Saudi Arabia or Iran - both have other reasons in putting together such forces, with both provided with a level of deterrence, as well.
I should say the recent flurry of interest in Saudi ballistic missiles is due to a piece written by Sean O'Connor and published in IHS Jane’s. Sean has to be amused with an Iranian response rendered today by FARS News Agency:
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi blasted the enemies' attempts to create tension between Iran and its neighbors, and said Tehran is studying the alleged satellite photos released by a British security consultancy showing Saudi missiles have been aimed at Iran.
"We are evaluating the images, but what is important to us is the question why these photos should be released under such conditions to inspire (people with) the impression that rivalry and tension between the two great countries of the Muslim world is so wide that they have targeted their missiles at each other," Araqchi said in his weekly press conference in Tehran on Tuesday.
He described the release of such photos as a conspiracy to increase tension in the Persian Gulf region and between two important regional countries under such circumstances that Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani, who has vowed to improve relations with the regional states, specially Saudi Arabia, is due to take power.
Sean is certainly a competent observer and analyst. Previously he was the first open source analyst to detect Iran's ballistic missile silos located in the rocky terrain of East Azerbaijan province.
File photo: Amir Kholoosi at Iranian Students News Agency