Saudis Incompetent In the Use of the $Billions of US Weaponry?

US Patriot Missiles Failed To Protect Saudi Oil Assets, Making the Case For Russian S-400 Missile Sales

Houthi Drones Set 2 Saudi Aramco Oil Facilities Ablaze

Saudi Refinery Fires Playing “Hell” w/Saudi Economy

Saudi Arabia has ‘a great deal of explaining to do’ on how its oil assets were attacked, says former US diplomat

  • Saudi Arabia — one of the world’s largest oil exporters — spent an estimated $67.6 billion on arms in 2018, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  • The Middle Eastern country was just behind the U.S. and China in terms of defense spending, said Gary Grappo, former U.S. ambassador to Oman.
  • “I think the Saudi leadership has a great deal of explaining to do that a country that ranks third in terms of total defense spending … was not able to defend its most critical, and I can’t underscore that enough, its most critical oil facility from these kinds of attacks,” said Grappo.

‘No doubt’ Iran played some role in attacks on Saudi: Ex-US ambassador

Saudi Arabia has “a great deal of explaining to do” on how it could not defend its “most critical” oil facility from drone attacks at the weekend, said Gary Grappo, former U.S. ambassador to Oman.

The Kingdom spent an estimated $67.6 billion on arms in 2018, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Saudi Arabia was just behind the U.S. and China in terms of defense spending, Grappo told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday.

“I think the Saudi leadership has a great deal of explaining to do that a country that ranks third in terms of total defense spending … was not able to defend its most critical, and I can’t underscore that enough, its most critical oil facility from these kinds of attacks,” said Grappo, who was previously in senior positions at the U.S. embassies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Baghdad, Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest oil exporters, and damage to its oil facilities ignited fears of supply disruption around the world.

It’s a bit alarming that these folks got through … they were exquisitely precise, they knew exactly what to hit, they hit it perfectly,
Bob McNally

Oil prices jumped after the Saturday attack on Saudi Aramco’s oil processing facility at Abqaiq and the nearby Khurais oil field. That knocked out 5.7 million barrels of daily crude oil production — which is more than half of Saudi Arabia’s global daily exports and over 5% of the world’s daily crude production.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran for the attacks.

“We’re talking about drones. Now, drones are not so easily detectable but, nevertheless, they had to be able to see that this was a strong possibility given the previous attacks they’ve experienced in previous oil facility, airports and elsewhere,” said the former diplomat who is now a distinguished fellow at the University of Denver.

Attacks on Saudi were a ‘rude awakening’ for the oil market

Saturday’s attack was not the first time that the Abqaiq oil processing plant was targeted. In 2006, security guards blocked an attempted attack by al-Qaida militants on the facility.

Bob McNally, founder and president of consultancy Rapidan Energy Group, said he was “disappointed, but not surprised” by the attack. He said he had expected Riyadh to “raise defenses,” especially after al-Qaida’s previous attempt to attack its facilities.

“It’s a bit alarming that these folks got through. We looked at those photos that were released by the Trump administration — they were exquisitely precise, they knew exactly what to hit, they hit it perfectly,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday.

“For all we know, they could come back. So, no grounds for complacency, in my view.”

US Patriot Missiles Failed To Protect Saudi Oil Assets, Making the Case For Russian S-400 Missile Sales

[SEE: Russia’s Middle East Power Play ; Putin proposes Russian missile defence for Saudi after oil attack ]

US defense failure… Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks

US defense failure… Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks

The devastating blitz on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry has led to a flurry of accusations from US officials blaming Iran. The reason for the finger-pointing is simple: Washington’s spectacular failure to protect its Saudi ally.

The Trump administration needs to scapegoat Iran for the latest military assault on Saudi Arabia because to acknowledge that the Houthi rebels mounted such an audacious assault on the oil kingdom’s heartland would be an admission of American inadequacy.

Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars in recent years purchasing US Patriot missile defense systems and supposedly cutting-edge radar technology from the Pentagon. If the Yemeni rebels can fly combat drones up to 1,000 kilometers into Saudi territory and knock out the linchpin production sites in the kingdom’s oil industry, then that should be a matter of huge embarrassment for US “protectors.”

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Maximum lies’: Iran rejects US’ claim it attacked Saudi oil facilities, warns it’s ready for war

American defense of Saudi Arabia is germane to their historical relationship. Saudi oil exports nominated in dollars for trade – the biggest on the planet – are vital for maintaining the petrodollar global market, which is in turn crucial for American economic power. In return, the US is obligated to be a protector of the Saudi monarchy, which comes with the lucrative added benefit of selling the kingdom weapons worth billions of dollars every year.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia has the world’s third biggest military budget, behind the US and China. With an annual spend of around $68 billion, it is the world’s number one in terms of percentage of gross domestic product (8.8 per cent). Most of the Saudi arms are sourced from the US, with Patriot missile systems in particular being a recent big-ticket item.

Yet for all that financial largesse and the finest American military technology, the oil kingdom just witnessed a potentially crippling wave of air assaults on its vital oil industry. Saudi oil production at its mammoth refinery complex at Abqaiq, 205 miles (330 kms) east of the capital Riyadh, was down 50 per cent after it was engulfed by flames following air strikes. One of the Saudi’s biggest oilfields, at Khurais, also in the Eastern Province, was also partially closed.

There are credible reports that the damage is much more serious than the Saudi officials are conceding. These key industrial sites may take weeks to repair.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got it half right when he claimed, “Iran launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.

Yes, it is unprecedented. But Pompeo and other US officials have most likely got it wrong about blaming Iran.

ALSO ON RT.COMPompeo blames Iran for drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, Senator Graham urges US to strike it

Some Trump administration officials told US media that “cruise missiles” were responsible for the giant fireballs seen over the Saudi oil facilities. One was quoted anonymously as saying: “There’s no doubt that Iran is responsible for this… there’s no escaping it. There is no other candidate.”

In a hurried effort to substantiate accusations against Iran, satellite images were released which show what appears to be the aftermath of the air strike on the Abqaiq refinery complex. US officials claim the location of the explosions indicate the weapons originated not from Yemen to the south, but from either Iran or Iraq.

Even the normally dutiful New York Times expressed doubt about that claim, commenting in its report: “The satellite photographs released on Sunday did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested, with some appearing to show damage on the western side of facilities, not from the direction of Iran or Iraq.”

The accusations made by Pompeo and others are assertions in place of substantiated claims.

It is noteworthy that President Donald Trump refrained from openly blaming Iran by name, merely hinting at the possibility. If Pompeo is so adamant in fingering Iran, why didn’t Trump? Also, the president made a telling remark when he said he was “waiting for verification” from Saudi Arabia “as to who they believe was the cause of the attack.” Again, if US officials are explicitly accusing Iran then why is Trump saying he wants “verification” from the Saudis?

For its part, Iran has flatly dismissed the allegations that it had any involvement, saying that statements by Pompeo were “blind” and tantamount to setting up a conflict.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also rejected claims that his country’s territory might have been used by pro-Iranian Shia militants to launch the air strikes.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen have issued unambiguous statements claiming responsibility for the air raids on the Saudi oil installations. They were specific that the weapons were drones, not missiles, adding with details that 10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were deployed.

ALSO ON RT.COM Prematurely assigning blame for attack on Saudi oil facilities is irresponsible, says China

Notably too, most US media reported initially that the attacks were by drones flown from Yemen. Associated Press reported a level of sophistication in the attacks whereby drones were used first to disable the US Patriot radar systems before other UAVs proceeded to execute the air strikes. 

It therefore seems that US officials are attempting to switch the story by blaming Iran. It is reckless scapegoating because the logical consequence could elicit a military attack against Iran, in which event Tehran has warned it is ready for war.

The rationale for blaming Iran is that the Yemeni rebels (which Iran supports politically) are just not capable of using drones with such dramatic success against the Saudi oil industry. The culprit must be Iran, so the rationale goes. This is a follow-on from alleged sabotage by Iran against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf earlier this summer.

However, a timeline shows that the Houthis are more than capable of launching ever-more powerful ballistic missiles and deeper penetrating drones into Saudi territory. The rebels have been using drones from the beginning of the war which the US-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched on the southern Arabian country in March 2015.

Over the past four years, the Houthi aerial firepower has gradually improved. Earlier, the Saudis, with American defense systems, were able to intercept drones and missiles from Yemen. But over the last year, the rebels have increased their success rate for hitting targets in the Saudi interior, including the capital Riyadh.

In May this year, Houthi drones hit Saudi Arabia’s crucial east-west pipeline. Then in August, drones and ballistic missiles were reported to have struck the Shaybah oil field near the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the Dammam exporting complex in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

ALSO ON RT.COMWill France, UK, US ever pay for what they have done to Yemen?

The Yemenis claim they are taking the war to Saudi Arabia and the UAE after years of relentless air strikes on their homeland which have resulted in nearly 90,000 dead. A recent UN report censured the US, Britain and France for possible complicity in war crimes through their military support for the Saudi coalition.

There must be trepidation among the monarchs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE that the rebels from war-torn and starving Yemen are now coming after them with drones that could demolish their oil economies. What’s more, the much-vaunted American protector is not able to deliver on its strategic bargain, despite billions of dollars of Pentagon weaponry. That’s why Washington has to find an excuse by casting Iran as the villain.

Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively on international affairs.

“We Were Terrorizing Some of the Most Exploited People on Earth”

[SEE: Lethal PTSD–Collateral Damage Left In the Wake of War for Empire ;Every 80 Minutes Another US War Veteran Commits Suicide]



“We Were Terrorizing Some of the Most Exploited People on Earth”


An interview with Spenser Rapone — the “commie cadet” that got kicked out of the military for standing against US imperialism.

Rory Fanning

Spenser Rapone was accepted to West Point in 2012, graduated in 2016 — and received an “other than honorable discharge” in June. His expulsion came after a viral tweet showing him — clad in uniform, fist raised — displaying a hat reading, “COMMUNISM WILL WIN.”

“I was always told growing up that the US military protects the innocent, that we fight for freedom, truth, and justice,” Rapone tells Rory Fanning in the following interview. “It didn’t take me long to realize that my experiences did not reflect that in the slightest.”

Fanning — himself a former Army Ranger — spoke with Rapone at the Socialism 2018 conference in Chicago earlier this year. They discussed Rapone’s time in the military, the myths of American empire, and how to rebuild the antiwar movement. Their conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Can you start off by telling us about your background and why you decided to join the military?


I’m from New Castle, Pennsylvania, which is a classic Rust Belt city. I’m one of six children from, at the time, a single-income family. I did well in high school, and I might have been able to go to a state school, but I really couldn’t afford it. And I was a young male in American society, so I watched a lot of Hollywood movies, a lot of TV shows. That conditions you to think a certain way about the world, about what’s morally right and ethical. So I decided to enlist as an infantryman out of high school.

Soon after enlisting and finishing basic training, military airborne school, and ranger selection, I was deployed to Afghanistan, to Khost Province — right on the Pakistan border. I was told I was in this elite unit with elite soldiers. But the men I was surrounded by took active pleasure in killing other human beings and dehumanizing people because they have different cultures or a different religion. I was always told growing up that the US military protects the innocent, that we fight for freedom, truth, and justice. It didn’t take me long to realize that my experiences did not reflect that in the slightest.

I was deployed for most of the summer of 2011. I got back and began trying to process what I witnessed. At that time, I had some idea of what US imperialism constituted from my own experiences, but I didn’t have a political education, which is crucial to understanding these things. So I thought, like the adage goes, maybe I could “change things from the inside.” I applied to West Point, and got accepted.

From there I began to realize the issue was a structural phenomenon — that one good person can’t effect change when the system is inherently wrong. I soon found myself trying to resolve the contradiction of my future officership. I wouldn’t just be a soldier — I’d have to influence soldiers who were my subordinates. I’d have to tell them the mission we were doing was right when I had firsthand experience as a teenager in Afghanistan that what we were doing was not right. We were just persecuting and terrorizing some of the most exploited people on Earth with one of the most technologically advanced militaries in history.


You served under both Obama and Trump. Can you talk about some of the differences among active-duty soldiers under each president?


When I enlisted during the Obama era, one of the prevailing themes was “the commander in chief doesn’t understand what we’re doing.” The casual racism you see in American society is intensified in the military because of the hyper-masculine environment, especially in combat arms.

At the end of the day, the material effects of US foreign policy are largely the same [between administrations], but when Trump was elected, there was a noticeable shift. Before, soldiers would feel hesitant about saying blatantly racist or sexist things. Trump’s election emboldened them to act out in a way that wasn’t typical before.

While Trump himself may be more of a parody-fascist than a fascist, it was as if that election was releasing the forces of a new kind of fascism. Within the military ranks, that was prevalent. A lot of guys were getting excited at the prospect that we might go into North Korea or possibly Iran.


We have to talk about the picture that caused this whole situation for you. For those who haven’t seen it, Spenser is at his West Point graduation. He’s holding up a sign under his hat, and it says, “Communism will win.” But you sat on the photo for a while. You posted it with a hashtag, #VeteransforKaepernick. Can you describe why you decided to say that?


I sat on those photos — the first one of “Communism will win” inscribed in my hat,

the second one of me wearing a Che Guevara shirt underneath [my uniform] — from the time I graduated in May 2016 to September 2017.

This was for a couple reasons. First, to get through West Point despite my political beliefs — I was almost kicked out my senior year for espousing a communist political line. Second, I knew if I was authentic in my worldview, I wouldn’t be able to continue serving my full commitment. I’d have to find a way out somehow. Getting out of the military is daunting, especially as an officer.

So I took those pictures both as my own individual act of rebellion, but also so that if there was ever an opening, I could use them for some larger, political purpose.

The opening I saw was the one-year anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality. A year prior, you had taken a picture at a Cubs game holding up a sign saying, “Vets for Kaepernick,” and I kept that idea in my back pocket. The debate on Kaepernick started up again, with Trump denouncing him and other football players expressing solidarity.

I decided that was an opening to express how I feel. I didn’t expect it to go viral like it did, but I thought maybe I could influence other soldiers. Or at the very least, I’d be able to remove myself from the army and find a way to talk about my experiences in some type of antiwar movement.

Plus, Colin Kaepernick risked his career to support a cause. He could have been comfortable for the rest of his life. But he put some skin in the game, and he suffered for it. I figured this was the least I could do if I was serious about my own beliefs.


Can you talk about the repercussions afterwards, not only from the military, but the right-wing media, your family, etc.? Thoughts like yours go through a lot of soldiers’ heads, but it’s the repercussions that keep them from acting on them.


The next morning, one of the field-grade officers said to me, “So, I hear you’re a fan of Colin Kaepernick,” and I thought, “Oh boy, here we go.” Then my chain of command pulled me aside and told me I was under investigation. They read me my rights and told me I had the right to an attorney. Then they essentially confined me to a range tower, which is a tall structure where you can oversee all the different operations happening on the rifle range.

They made me stay in there for what they told me was for my own safety. Immediately, I had friends and family members reaching out to me. The right-wing hysteria was quickly whipped up: publications like the Daily Caller and Infowars ran stories. Alex Jones challenged me to a boxing match. That didn’t faze me too much, but my family was worried, and began to get “alt-right” trolls trying to dox me and find their information.

My attorney told me that the military would win in this situation because of the way the uniform code of military justice is structured. You’re essentially guilty until proven innocent. Although it’s not illegal to be a communist in the military, there are other ways to formulate their arguments to repress you.

Eventually I was pulled out of the field and went through the different legal channels. Within that time period, Marco Rubio wrote a letter to the acting secretary of the army, Ryan McCarthy. He said I should have my commission revoked, my degree pulled — unclear how that latter demand would work — and called for a larger investigation of other troops. This launched a separate investigation back at West Point: hundreds of cadets who were even remotely associated with me were interviewed, and they were asked about their politics.

While waiting for the verdict, I was told I couldn’t say anything publicly. I had to bite my tongue and wait until I was officially reprimanded, which happened in December 2017. I was told this would initiate a show-cause board, which is where you show why you should be retained, or you show why you should leave on their terms.

I tried to submit a conditional resignation, saying I wanted to leave, and asked for a general discharge. But they said “no,” and that I could either go to a board of inquiry, which is basically an adversarial trial — one side presents their case, I present mine — or I could leave unconditionally. I didn’t want to grovel before the empire, and knew it’d be a show trial at best, so I submitted my resignation. That was accepted, and I got issued an “other than honorable” discharge.


I want to shift gears. We’re in Chicago. This is home to the largest concentration of JROTC students in any school district in the country. Ten thousand students are enrolled in the program; 55 percent are black, 40 percent are Latinx. But when you talk to these kids who are signed up, they can tell you very little about the last seventeen years of the war, much less the history of US imperialism around the world. You signed up and went to West Point, in part, for an education. What would you tell these kids who are looking for an education, looking for a way out of poverty, about the military?


First, when you’re talking to a teenager about this subject, there’s no effective argument that says, “You’re too smart for this, you could do better, etc.” That’s usually condescending. But you can explain what their material relation to violence and power will be as a soldier and the harsh reality of what that means.

Whether you’re in combat arms or not, there’s a tangible chance that you’ll be killed. But as bad as that is, there’s something very different about taking a human life yourself, let alone if you don’t understand what cause it’s serving. So, you explain that, and ask questions about how if you’re an infantryman, and you’re forced to kill another human being, whose interest is that serving and why were you so prepared to take that human life in the first place?

And even if you’re not in combat, you’re supplying the bullets, you’re supplying the food, to aid in the war effort. Whether you’re on the front lines or not, you’re still complicit in the killing of other human beings and the pursuit of US foreign policy.

If you’re able to articulate what that will do to you as a human being, and how you’ll be forced to live with that — and that’s not scare-mongering, it’s speaking to what they will actually have to execute as a soldier in the US military — that can at least plant the seed for them to grapple with these questions. Even if they decide to join, at least they’ll be armed with some degree of critical thinking. When they’re faced with those situations, they might find the courage to resist, or find a way out.


During the Vietnam War era, we had hundreds of union meetings happening within the rank and file of the military on a daily basis. We had hundreds of incidents where soldiers were fragging and killing their officers. We saw people hijack helicopters within the ranks to drop propaganda flyers over military bases. But we also had a large student movement that was providing a support network, with coffeehouses and structures to welcome soldiers who were resisting back into civilian life and treating them with the respect they deserve for resisting. We also had the Viet Cong resisting.

The Viet Cong and the Afghan resistance — that people in these countries are resisting — is the only similarity I can see between the Vietnam era and the current global “war on terror.” For example, it’s illegal to have union meetings in the military now.

It’s a big question, but how do you see soldiers organizing now? You’re proof that resistance is still possible within an all-volunteer military, but how do we create more of that?


The war resisters from Vietnam were not all draftees; a substantial portion were volunteers. The narrative that a conscription army is the only thing that will produce war resisters is flawed and ahistorical.

Yes, there were attempts to create military labor unions. It’s now in US military code that that’s illegal. In fact, in the documents about my investigation, one of the charges against me was about advocating for military labor unions.

But you asked how we get more people to resist. Part of it is how we term “antiwar,” and what that means. Initially, after the invasion of Iraq, there was a substantial antiwar movement, but five years later, with the election of Barack Obama, a lot of that dissipated.

When it comes to antiwar resistance there’s an insistence on making it anti-Trump, or at the time, anti-Bush, rather than antiwar. So, one key is articulating “antiwar” in terms of the structural phenomena we witness: how war is profitable, how it’s designed to be endless. There’s no tangible objective other than to make it endless, to continue lining the pockets of Raytheon, Boeing, and so on.

As to how to reach soldiers, you need to meet them where they are. No one likes being in the military, in the moment. But what happens is that because in the US our civic religion is patriotism, folks who at one time had nothing but hate for it — they couldn’t stand being in the field, waking up for [physical training] — when they get out, they’re placed on a pedestal as a veteran. If we reach them and can tell them that none of these people who sing your praises now really care about you outside of serving their own political interests, that’s critical. A glaring example of that is that many of the politicians who claim to be staunch patriots and support the troops want to privatize the VA.

Aside from that, reaching active-duty soldiers? No one likes to deploy; no one likes to be separated from their friends and family to go inflict violence on human beings. Even some of the true believers who claim they enjoy it or relish it — deep down, they know what they’re doing.

But it’s very daunting: how in the world are you supposed to say, “No, I’m not deploying.” That’s on us to create the structures — to have places for dissident soldiers and military personnel. To tell them that there’s more to your skills as a soldier than firing a weapon. There are many different social movements and organizations you could join, where you could actually aid people, and actually fight for freedom, for liberation, for emancipation.

Playing the denouncement game toward those soldiers isn’t politically viable, nor does it make much sense. That said, we also need to do some de-programming with soldiers — I myself had to go through it — and it’s going to take a lot of patience. But we need to find a way to bring them in, create spaces for them to name their experiences, and then use their knowledge and abilities at organizing and working on a team to support emancipatory movements and socialist politics.

Arms Control Wonks Identifies Rocket Remains In Saudi As Yemeni Quds 1


On September 14, several explosions rocked the Khurais oilfield as well as the Abqaiq refinery, one of Saudi Arabia’s most vital petrochemical installations. Several hours later, the Houthis claimed that they had targeted both facilities with ten drones as part of their “Balance of Deterrence” campaign.

What made this attack different from other recorded Houthi drone attacks was not only the unprecedented amount of material damage caused but also lingering doubt about the nature and the attribution of the attack. First, a video allegedly showing flying objects entering Kuwaiti airspace led to speculation that like a previous “Houthi” drone attack this strike might actually have originated in Iraq or even Iran. While the video remains unverified, the fact that the Kuwaiti government launched a probe into the issue lends some credence to the idea that something might have happened over Kuwait that day. Speculation about the origins of the attack was further fueled by a tweet by Mike Pompeo in which he claimed that there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.

Then the question arose whether drones had been used at all, or whether the attack might in fact have been a missile strike. Previous Houthi drone strikes against oil facilities tended to result in quite limited damage which could be an indication that a different weapons system was used this time. Indeed, Aramco came to the conclusion that its facilities were attacked by missiles. Even more curious, several pictures began to emerge on social media purportedly showing the wreckage of a missile in the Saudi desert. While the images appear real, neither the date the photos were taken nor their location can be verified. Social media users quickly claimed the images showed a crashed Iranian-made Soumar cruise missile. The Soumar and its updated version, the Hoveyzeh, are Iran’s attempts at reverse-engineering the Soviet-designed KH-55 cruise missile, several of which the country illegally imported from Ukraine in the early 2000s. Others claimed it was the Quds 1, a recently unveiled Houthi cruise missile often claimed to be a rebranded Soumar.

While at this point there are still more questions about the attack than answers, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at the Quds 1. Do the pictures in the desert actually show a Quds 1? And is the Quds 1 really just a smuggled Soumar?

The story of the Quds 1 begins in mid-June 2019, when a cruise missile fired by the Houthis hit the terminal of Abha Airport in Southern Saudi Arabia, wounding a total of 26 passengers. Not long afterwards, Saudi Arabia held a press conference showing images of the missile’s wreckage and claiming that the missile in question was an Iranian Ya Ali cruise missile. The Ya Ali is a much smaller missile than the Soumar and while the newest version of the Soumar has a range of up to 1350km, the Ya Ali’s range is limited to about 700km. With Abha airport being located only 110km from the Yemeni border, using a smaller, shorter-range system seemed to make sense. However, there was an inconsistency. The rounded wings and stabilizers shown in the Saudi presentation did not match the Ya Ali. Instead they were more reminiscent of the Soumar.

Only a few weeks later, in early July, the Houthis opened a large static display of their ballistic missile and drone arsenal. One of the surprises unveiled at the show was a cruise missile named Quds 1 (Jerusalem 1) which the Houthis claimed to have indigenously developed.

Noting the overall similarity in design with the Soumar, many observers claimed Iran had simply smuggled it to Yemen where the Houthis gave it a new paint job and a new name, as they had done before with the Qiam. Well, it turns out cruise missiles are a lot like wines or pictures of Joe Biden. At first they all appear to be the same but once you spend enough time on them, you realize there are quite a few differences. Differences between the Quds 1 and the Soumar include the entire booster design, the wing position, the Quds 1’s fixed wings, the shape of the nose cone, the shape of the aft fuselage, the position of the stabilizers and the shape of the engine cover and exhaust.

The differences in the shape of the aft fuselage and the position of the stabilizers make it clear that the wreckage in the desert is much more likely to be a Quds 1 than a Soumar.

There is yet another apparent difference between the Quds 1 and the Soumar/Hoveyzeh: size. A quick measurement using MK1 Eyeball reveals that the Quds 1 seems to be smaller in diameter than the Soumar.

But while MK1 Eyeball works fine, measuring is always a little more objective. So let’s go back to the Saudi presentation for a second. When describing the remnants of the alleged Ya Ali that hit Abha airport, the Saudis mentioned that among the wreckage they found a jet engine named TJ-100.

A quick search reveals that there indeed is a small turbojet engine called TJ100. The engine is produced by the Czech company PBS Aerospace which describes it as being especially suitable for applications in UAVs, one of its uses being the Spanish/Brazilian Diana target drone. Oh yeah, and you can also totally use it to convert your glider into a jet, which is pretty cool.

When comparing the engine seen on the Quds 1 and the TJ100 it seems pretty clear that whatever powers the Quds 1 is either a TJ100 or pretty much an exact copy of it. An engine displayed at an Iranian drone exhibition again shows stunning similarities with the TJ100, implying that Iran is producing a copy of the Czech engine for use in some of its drones.

Knowing the dimensions of the TJ100, one can precisely measure the diameter of the Quds 1. With 34cm it is significantly smaller than the Soumar, which retains the original KH-55’s diameter of 51,4cm.

However, the Qud 1’s use of a TJ100 is interesting for more reasons than just measurements. First, the fact that the Quds 1 uses the same engine type that was found in Abha makes it highly likely that the missile that hit Abha’s terminal was a Quds-1 simply mislabeled by Saudi Arabia. The Quds 1’s design also corresponds to the rounded wing and stabilizers found at the scene.

Second, knowing more details about the engine gives us some insights into the performance of the missile. Both the KH-55 and the Soumar use fuel efficient turbofan engines. The TJ100 however not only has much lower thrust than the original KH-55 engine but also is just your regular old turbojet. This leads to some questions about range. Both the missile’s smaller size and its more fuel-hungry engine make it seem unlikely it’s range would be anywhere close to the the Soumar’s/Hoveyzeh’s range of 1350km.

If the pictures showing the Quds 1 wreckage in Saudi Arabia are indeed connected to the recent Abqaiq attack, it would seem more likely that the attack originated from a place closer to Eastern Saudi Arabia than Northern Yemen – potentially Iraq, Iran or perhaps even from ships. But then again that is a big if at the current moment.

All of this leaves the question of just who developed and built the Quds 1. The idea that impoverished war-torn Yemen would be able to develop a cruise missile without any outside assistance seems far-fetched. Iran’s previous supply of missiles to the Houthis and the fact that the country uses TJ100 engines in its drone program do imply that the Iran could be behind the Quds 1.

However, so far we haven’t seen any trace of the Quds 1 in Iran proper. This riddle is not unique to the Quds 1. Beginning in 2018, several missile systems began to emerge in Yemen that while broadly similar to Iranian-designed systems have no exact Iranian equivalent. These missiles include the Badr-1P and the Badr-F precision-guided solid-fuel short range missiles

Is Iran secretly designing, testing and producing missile systems for exclusive use by its proxies? We might have to wait for Tehran Timmy to show up in Sanaa or the Donald to tweet another high-res satellite pic to find the answer.