The U.S. Ought Not Allow a Nuclear Saudi Arabia

While the nuclear agreement with Iran was being negotiated in 2014 and 2015, its critics warned that, by allowing Tehran the “right to enrich” uranium, the world powers would begin a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Revelations that China is helping Saudi Arabia build two suspected nuclear facilities suggests that this concern was warranted, as Andrea Stricker and Behnam Ben Taleblu write:

Prior to 2004, when China joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group—a group of states committed to preventing proliferation of sensitive nuclear technologies—Beijing sold problematic nuclear facilities and materials to Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Algeria, and Argentina. It has also failed to . . . prevent the supply of nuclear-related equipment and commodities by Chinese companies or foreign-owned companies operating on its soil.

Seen in this light, China’s nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia is likely commercial in nature, rather than the result of a strategic preference for regional supremacy by either Riyadh or Tehran. But such mercantilist considerations can create long-term opportunities for China to tempt states like Saudi Arabia out of the American orbit. In the short-to-medium term, however, Chinese assistance to Riyadh complicates Washington’s efforts to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program.

The stakes are high. If the United States fails in convincing Saudi Arabia, a regional partner, not to opt for domestic enrichment, then it will face greater hurdles getting Iran to accept limits on its own program. If the two become locked in a race for nuclear supremacy, then both countries could claim a security-based need to make nuclear weapons that might garner less outrage from the international community than if only one had developed nuclear weapons. This, in turn, would not only undercut the nonproliferation regime but trigger a cascade of regional proliferation likely beginning with Turkey or Egypt.

Read more at FDD

More about: China, Iran nuclear program, Middle East, Nuclear proliferation, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security