Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:
Has Saudia Arabia in effect now given Israel the green light to bomb Iran? A Times of London report suggests it has:
Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.
In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.
To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert.
“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a US defence source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.”
Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.
The four main targets for any raid on Iran would be the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Secondary targets include the lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete.
How credible is this report? Very. The Times is a solid newspaper. And it’s no secret that Saudia Arabia has had a strained relationship with Iran for many years.
It’s Middle Eastern politics in microcosm. For all the Wahhabist invective towards al-Yahud, the Saudis are more afraid of being nuked by Iran in some insane Sunni/Shiite armaggedon than by Israel, and rightly so. So, just as the local Arab regimes demagogue Israeli nukes for show while worrying privately about Tehran, the Kingdom might lend the IAF some airspace and then lamely pretend afterwards that the incursion was unwanted. Question, though: Will anyone seriously believe their denial that they were involved? It probably won’t spare them some sort of Iranian reprisal, either overt or covert (via Hezbollah or a Quds Force operation inside S.A.), and it’s bound to draw the ire of the many Jew-hating fanatics in their clerical class. The only reason to deny, I assume, is to deprive Iran of a confession it could use to pressure other local Muslim regimes into isolating the Saudis as punishment — although even there, how likely it is that Sunni leaders will side with the great Shiite menace against Riyadh?
A fascinating development. With the notable exception of Chuck Wald, essentially every security analyst I’ve heard or read on the subject thinks that an aerial attack on Iran’s facilities would be counterproductive. But, given no good options, Israel is likely to take one of the bad ones.
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
Frankly, this is a more effective deterrent on the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions than anything Obama has done in eighteen months. And it proves how utterly false is Obama’s premise that progress on the ”peace process” is required to gain the Arab states’ co-operation on Iran. Imagine if we had spent the last 18 months rounding up support from the Arab states on a shared defense pact, demonstrating America’s full support of Israel and making clear that the military option is perfectly viable. Instead, we have a tenser Middle East, a withering U.S.-Israel alliance, and an emboldened Iran. It is the greatest foreign-policy miscalculation in memory.
DRJ at Patterico:
I hope this U.S. defense source wasn’t the Times‘ only source. I also hope that if Israel does conduct an airstrike against Iran, President Obama will side with the Saudis and the Israelis instead of Iran and its enablers. For one of the few times in my life, I’m not sure which side the American government would support.
But at least now we know the old saying is true: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Duraid Al Baik at Gulf News:
Gulf states will not support any military action against Iran despite being wary about its nuclear programme, analysts said on Saturday.
“Saudi Arabia will not cooperate with Israel or any other country to attack Iran. We have always advocated a peaceful solution to the Iran crisis,” Dr Abdul Aziz Hamad of King Saud University told Gulf News.
Saudi and US defence officials were quoted in a report in The Times as saying that Riyadh will allow Israeli jets to use its airspace if Tel Aviv decides to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” the London-based newspaper said, quoting a US defence source.
“They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department,” the report said, quoting an unnamed Saudi official.
However, experts said although Gulf states continue to be concerned about Iran’s designs, they would not support any military action against the Islamic republic.
Riad Kahwaji, General Director of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the “[Times] report, in my opinion, is part of the psychological warfare between Iran and the US, because there is no need for Saudi-Israeli cooperation to allow the Jewish state to attack Iran.”