Saudi Arabia is building its own ballistic missiles, according to United States intelligence assessments and satellite images.

Iran PressMiddle East: US intelligence agencies assess that the kingdom is manufacturing its own ballistic missiles, according to a source familiar with the matter and a US official.

Satellite images suggest that Saudi Arabia is producing ballistic missiles at a site west of the capital, Riyadh, according to researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, in California. 

“The key piece of evidence is that the facility is operating a ‘burn pit’ to dispose of solid-propellant leftover from the production of ballistic missiles,” wrote Jeffrey Lewis and David Schmerler of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute. 

The news was first reported by CNN on Thursday.  The images were provided by commercial imaging company Planet Labs PBC.

The development could shift security calculations in the Middle East and further complicate the Biden administration’s efforts concerning the Iran nuclear deal 2015 known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It could also add another layer of complexity to Washington’s relations with Beijing which is claimed to have helped Riyadh build the plant.

The new development comes days before the talks on lifting anti-Iran sanctions are expected to resume in Vienna.

“If Iran were to enter into negotiations over its missile program, it would be unlikely to accept limits that did not also apply to other countries,” wrote Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, in an article about Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile program published by the institute in August. 

Nevertheless, the fact that Saudi Arabia is now known to be manufacturing its own ballistic missiles will spark concerns of a ramped-up arms race in a highly tense Middle East region that is already riven with conflict. 

The Saudi Ministry of Media did not respond to requests for comment. 

This is while Britain on Friday condemned a launch of ballistic missiles by Iran in military drills conducted this week.