US President Barack Obama (L) and Saudi King Abdullah
Source: Press TV
The US is secretly expanding its defense ties with Saudi Arabia despite the apparent anger expressed by the Arab side over America's role in the changes taken place in the Middle East, a report says.
The US and Saudi Arabia are also up to creating for the kingdom an air and missile defense system to protect the kingdom's oil-fields and future nuclear sites, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
The plan is based on a May 2008 deal signed by the then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef, apparently went underway in 2009 or 2010, and is meant to create 'facilities security force,' which would maximally contain at least 35,000 Saudi servicemen.
The collaboration is overseen by the US Central Command and is managed by US Army general Robert G. Catalanotti.
The squad is trained and equipped by American personnel, including staff from energy and defense departments. It is separate from the Saudi military and National Guard, which protects the royal family.
Washington has also offered Riyadh a historic 60-billion-dollar arms package that will provide Saudi with dozens of advanced combat aircraft.
Details about the elite force were learned from interviews with US officials speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of Saudi security concerns, as well as in interviews with private analysts and public statements by former US officials.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to two written requests for comment.
The Saudis want to upgrade their Patriot air defenses to the latest US version, which can knock down short-range ballistic missiles in flight. And they have expressed interest in a more capable system designed to defend against higher-flying, medium-range missiles, the report said.
The economically-demanding cooperation lives on despite the fact that poverty and unemployment are currently affecting the lives of millions of people in the kingdom.