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Saudi Arabia is interested in purchasing a defense system from Rafael, an Israeli-based arms manufacturer. The report said that Rafael would try to obtain permission from its European subsidiary to export Spike missiles.

Will The Deal Go Through?

The report added that the export of Spike missiles could face resistance inside the Israeli-occupied territories, fearing that such weapons would be used to target Israeli troops. However, Israel’s Security Ministry would likely allow Rafael to ship its Spike missile due to the weapon’s life-cycle of ten years, a period during which a conflict between Tel Aviv and Riyadh is unlikely.

The arms import aims to expand the kingdom’s weapon sources so that it does not rely too much on BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles manufactured by the American arms company Raytheon. However, such an import does not sound surprising given the Saudi-Israeli covert military cooperation needed to tackle Iran’s influence in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Iran both claim to represent the Muslim world. The former is the main Sunni Muslim power, and the latter is predominantly Shia Muslim.

Saudi Arabia Gets Closer To Israel To Curb Iranian Influence

Riyadh reportedly purchased the Israeli-made Iron Dome missile defense system⁠—developed by Rafael Advanced Defense System⁠—to counter Iran in 2018, although several Israeli officials denied the report.

Despite having no formal diplomatic ties, Saudi Arabia and Israel have united to tackle Iran’s influence in the Middle East. A Switzerland-based newspaper called Basler Zeitung revealed Tel Aviv and Riyadh’s secret military alliance to counter Tehran. Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia refuses to normalize ties with Israel as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not solved.

Nonetheless, the growing cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel is highly significant, including the possibility that it relates to the killing of US resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Did Saudi Arabia Use Israeli Spyware To Track Jamal Khashoggi?

Human rights organizations slam Israel⁠—as well as other nations⁠—for supplying arms to countries with poor human rights track records such as Saudi, Sudan, and Myanmar.

Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the U.S National Security Agency⁠—who defected and revealed widespread surveillance on American and foreign citizens⁠— claimed that the oil-rich kingdom had used Israeli-made spyware called Pegasus to track the Saudi journalist Jamal Khasoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate building in Istanbul, Turkey in October, 2018.

The killing of Khashoggi⁠—an oustpoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s royal family⁠—has put Saudi Arabia under considerable pressure. The Turkish intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) both stated that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was behind the incident.

“The Saudis, of course, knew that Khashoggi was going to go to the consulate, as he got an appointment. But how did they know his intention and plans?,” Snowden remarked at a conference in Tel Aviv via video conference.

Snowden added that the NSO Pegasus spyware had infected a smartphone of one of Khashoggi’s friends. A Canada-based research institute named Citizen Lab confirmed the claim.

“We have high confidence that the cellphone of Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi activist and Canadian permanent resident, was targeted and infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.”

Who Is NSO Group?

NSO Group is the manufacturer of Pegasus spyware, dubbed as the world’s most powerful surveillance tool. Snowden was sure that Saudi Arabia could collect all the information about the murdered journalist from the spyware. Social media giant Facebook filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, accusing the Israeli firm of hacking 1,400 smartphones and spying.

Head of Whatsapp Will Chatcart confirmed some of the report: “As we gathered the information that we lay out in our complaint, we learned that the attackers used servers and internet-hosting services that were previously associated with NSO.”

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