US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is the second high-ranking American official to visit Riyadh in less than a week. He landed Tuesday, April 12, just six days after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Saudi King Abdullah ended a stormy interview which failed to bridge the widening gap between Washington and Riyadh.
For the second interview, the monarch was attended by three top royal advisers, all hawks and live wires in security and external affairs: Director of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Secretary-General of the National Security Council Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel Jubeir.
The ambassador, who is important enough to the king to spend more time in the royal palace in Riyadh than at his post in Washington, was the only one of the three to be present at the meeting with Gates.
Our Gulf intelligence sources report that by calling in his most influential advisers, Abdullah was telling Washington:
1. That he attaches supreme importance to Saudi relations with the United States;
2. That he will not be moved from the independent foreign and security policies he has set in train – whether or not they meet with American approval. In pursuing them, Princes Muqrin and Bandar and Ambassador Jubeir enjoy his full backing.
According to our sources, the three advisers have been given their assignments: Muqrin is focusing on Iran, Yemen, Libya and Al Qaeda. Bandar deals with Saudi Arabia’s foreign military relations – excepting the US – and is managing the comparison shopping for advanced weapons among multiple suppliers. Ambassador Jubeir’s job is to advise the king and represent Saudi positions on matters of common interest to the US administration.
Saudis buy advanced Chinese nuclear-capable missiles
Bandar recently paid a secret visit to China and clinched terms for CSS-3 DF-3 ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to replace the hardware Saudi Arabia bought from China in the 1980s.
US intelligence discovered the first transaction in 1988 when those Chinese missiles were installed outside Riyadh and positioned to face Tehran. Our intelligence and military sources reveal the transaction Bandar negotiated provides for the sale of two types of Chinese missiles: the DF-21 (NATO-designated CSS-5), which is a two-stage, solid-propellant, single-warhead medium-range ballistic (MRBM) system developed by China Changfeng Mechanics and Electronis Technology Academy.
The DF-21 is capable of delivering a 500kT nuclear warhead over a distance of 1,800 km. Its purchase underlines the Saudi royal family’s determination to have its own nuclear arms and missiles ready for launch in the face of an approaching nuclear-armed Iran.
The second missile, the DongFeng 15 (Export name M-9; NATO-designation CSS-6) is a solid-fuel, short-range ballistic (SRBM) system developed by CASC China Academy of Rocket Motor Technology ARMT, the 4th Space Academy.
Our information is that the Saudis purchased the improved variants of DongFeng 15 B and DongFeng 15C, recently sighted in service with China’s Popular Liberation Army (PLA). During the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, those variants, which were launched as a warning to Taiwan, won a reputation for accuracy and effectiveness.