Israel must consider assisting Saudi Arabia, which is under constant missile attack, according to an article by Yoel Guzansky published Sunday in Globes.
Guzansky is a senior research fellow specializing in Gulf politics and security at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). He is one of Israel’s leading experts on the Gulf, which makes him well placed to understand not only the Abraham Accords but also the new complex issues involving Saudi Arabia.
Since last year, there have been increased rumors of Israeli ties with Saudi Arabia.
“Israel would do the right thing by offering the [Saudi] kingdom assistance in defending its strategic facilities against the growing threat from Iran,” Guzansky wrote.
Saudi Arabia is being threatened by drones and long-range missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015, and the US has now signaled displeasure with Riyadh’s offensive operations there. The Houthis have launched an offensive, attacking Marib, where Yemeni forces linked to Riyadh are fighting a desperate battle.
Iran uses Yemen as a test bed for its drones and missiles. It has helped the Houthis extend the range of ballistic missiles to hundreds of miles and also helped them with precision-drone strikes.
This is a major threat to the region, including Israel, the UAE and other states. Iran has attacked Saudi oil facilities, such as Abqaiq in 2019, and the Houthis recently attacked energy facilities in Saudi Arabia at Ras Tanura and in Riyadh. Iran has also used militias in Iraq to attack Saudi Arabia in January 2021 and in May 2019.
“As Israel attaches the greatest importance to the Iranian nuclear threat, and rightly so, to the Arab Gulf states it is the Iranian missile arsenal that poses the most serious and immediate threat,” Guzansky wrote.
Saudi Arabia is under constant threat, with attacks by more than 860 drones and ballistic missiles since March 2015.
“Despite massive arms acquisitions over the years, the kingdom lacks sufficient defensive capability, let alone offensive capability,” the article says.
Israel could do the right thing by offering the kingdom assistance. Israel has multilayered air-defense systems, including Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome. Over the past year, they have been shown to work together closely against threats, and in February, Israel announced new capabilities for Iron Dome.
Last week, Israel said Iron Dome had successfully confronted drone and missile threats in a test. That means Israel has expertise regarding these kinds of threats.
Guzansky said there are pitfalls involved, such as avoiding embarrassing leaks of any such ties with Riyadh. Washington has given Saudi Arabia the cold shoulder. Yet the US supports Saudi Arabia defending itself.
Riyadh has the Patriot system, which can be used against drones and missiles. It may receive the THAAD system in 2023. In 2017, Raytheon, which makes the Patriot, said the Saudis had used Patriots to shoot down more than 100 tactical ballistic missiles launched from Yemen.
“Israel has advanced capabilities in the field, and in the past there have even been reports that Saudi Arabia is seeking to purchase Iron Dome batteries from Israel as part of tightening security relations between the two countries, a report later denied by the Defense Ministry,” Guzansky wrote.
In fact, reports indicate the US may have moved one of its two Iron Dome batteries to the Gulf, he wrote.
Israel could help Saudi Arabia overcome its strategic dilemmas and also reap political benefits if it aids Riyadh, according to Guzansky. Also, Israel could learn from the types of threats being used against Saudi Arabia, being that it shares a common foe with Riyadh.
“The Gulf does not currently have ideal air-defense systems, and Israel can assist both in providing the systems themselves and in providing advice and guidance to its new-old partners in the Gulf,” Guzansky wrote.