Huge Saudi-Russian S-400 missile deal stalled over Israeli objections

A multibillion transaction for the sale of highly sophisticated Russian S-400 Triumf (NATO codenamed SA-21 Growler) missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia is hanging fire over Israel’s objections to their deployment within easy range of the Negev and Eilat port, debkafile‘s military sources report.
The $7 billion deal was brokered by Washington with a view to tempting Moscow to withhold S-300 air and missile defense batteries from Iran and denying the Islamic republic this key item for defending its nuclear sites. This quiet spat between Washington and Jerusalem, debkafile‘s Washington sources report, prompted last week’s demand for prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak to “line up with Washington on the nuclear issue.”
As a major incentive for reneging on its missile contract with Iran, the Obama administration offered Moscow the prime incentive of opening the Saudi market to Russian arms, followed by outlets in the Persian Gulf. For granting the Russians their first foothold in half a century in this strategic region, Washington hoped for Moscow’s expanded cooperation in the campaign to bring Iran to heel on its nuclear program.
Netanyahu knew about this US plan and did not demur, despite the S-400 interceptor’s highly advanced features: the ability to simultaneously strike six targets within 400 km, including fighter-bombers, stealth warplanes, cruise and ballistic missiles, and detect them up as far away as 3,500 km.
But when the details came to the knowledge of Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and Air Force commander Brig. Ido Nechustan, they protested that the Growler’s deployment in northern Saudi Arabia would subject all of Israeli Air Force flights in the center and south of the country to Saudi radar exposure and place every plane taking off or landing at its Negev Air Force bases within range of its missiles.
Jerusalem accordingly asked the Americans for some sort of guarantee that Saudi Arabia, which never signed peace with Israel, would not position the new missiles in central and northern bases (Tabuk is only 240 kilometers away from Israel’s Red Sea port) – only in the east opposite Iran and Iraq.
Riyadh has not made any answer to this request.
That being so, our military sources report, defense minister Barak lined up behind the generals in opposing the Russian missile deal with Saudi Arabia and differing with Netanyahu’s position, which maintains that the first priority is to thwart Russia’s sale of S-300 missiles to Iran; the Saudi-Russian arms deal can be left for later.
When President Ronald Reagan agreed to sell the Saudi air force its first US-made F-15 fighter jets in 1981, he obtained a pledge from Riyadh not to deploy them in northern air bases just across the Gulf of Aqaba from Israel. But the Saudis never honored this commitment and their warplanes are deployed in Tabuk to this very day.

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