Saudis giving Israel a green light on Iran?

posted at 11:00 am on July 5, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

According to the Times of London, the Saudis have agreed to tacitly allow Israelis to transit their airspace to attack Iran and end its nuclear program.  The Mossad has worked with the Saudis for several years as the Iranian threat in the region grew, and the Saudis — and other Arab states — would be privately relieved to have Tehran’s nuclear ambitions curtailed.  But is now the right time, while the mullahs teeter in Iran?

The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Earlier this year Meir Dagan, Mossad’s director since 2002, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility.

The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials.

“The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia,” a diplomatic source said last week.

Although the countries have no formal diplomatic relations, an Israeli defence source confirmed that Mossad maintained “working relations” with the Saudis.

The model for this attack is Syria, where the Israelis destroyed a nascent nuclear facility built by North Koreans.  Unfortunately, that model may not be a good predictor of success in Iran.  The terrain in Iran is much different than in Syria, where the facility stood out like a sore thumb on satellite recon images.  The Iranians have reportedly dispersed their nuclear work so that an attack on one or two sites won’t cripple their work.  The Israelis would have to have excellent intel in order to succeed — but then again, the Israelis usually have excellent intel, and if they’re working with the Saudis, that makes the odds better.

However, the Iranian regime looks on shaky ground at the moment.  An Israeli attack now would almost certainly stop the momentum of the opposition, boosted today by the mullahs in Qum declaring the rigged presidential election illegitimate, and by extension also the regime that rigged it.  A military strike would unite Iranians against the world and could set back the effort at real reform by 30 years, unless the Israelis attempted to decapitate the Guardian Council and Ali Khamenei.

If the Times has this right, the Israelis may want to bide their time to see what transpires next in Iran.  They can’t wait forever, but the overthrow of the mullahs would be more likely to accomplish what Israel wants than an air strike.

Update: I wonder if Joe Biden checked in with the boss before saying this:

Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. will not stand in Israel’s way if Israel believes military action is needed to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat.

Biden says the U.S. “cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.”

Green light?  Or just Biden being green at diplomacy, Obama-style?


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Well if it helps Israel sure. But keep your eyes peeled for that sneaky Joe and the O crew.

FontanaConservative on July 5, 2009 at 4:56 PM

I’m sure the Israelis have a much better idea of what’s going on inside Iran right now than does the world media (or Joe Biden for that matter).

I doubt that the Saudis are thrilled that any understandings — tacit or overt — with the Israelis are being made public, but the Mideast is a Byzantine world of alliances and betrayals. There may be some strategy involved in having this morsel of information get out into the world press right now.

The Obama Administration may think it can blunder its way through foreign policy decisions; the Israelis understand that this is an existential issue for them.

cruadin on July 5, 2009 at 5:17 PM

Obama: Who’s on first

Biden: I don’t you tell me, who’s on first.

Obama: Who

And on it goes

angryed on July 5, 2009 at 5:58 PM

It shouldn’t be a big surprise that Saudi is talking with Israel. Saudi knows very well it has nothing to fear from Israel. As long as the Saudis leave Isreal alone, Israel will leave them alone. And if they can co-ordinate to take out Iran’s nukes…all the better.

angryed on July 5, 2009 at 6:02 PM

They can’t wait forever, but the overthrow of the mullahs would be more likely to accomplish what Israel wants than an air strike.

That opinion needs an argument. I’ve never read any indication that Mousavi wants to end the nuclear weapons program.

Kralizec on July 5, 2009 at 6:23 PM

It isn’t just weapons systems that are threatened by an EMP attack. Transportation, communications, electrical and water supply.

ProfessorMiao on July 5, 2009 at 3:46 PM

-
True… My point is that Mutual Assured Destruction comes into play if someone nukes Israel, even with an EMP. If all they have left is the ability to retaliate, very bad for everyone. So, let’s hope for a better endgame than that.
-

RalphyBoy on July 5, 2009 at 6:56 PM

The protestors in Iran understand their government is not what they bargained for when the mullahs first came into power. They realize the inflammatory speech, threats against their neighbors and nuclear weapons program have cut them off from the rest of the world. Their government has lied to them and killed them. A targeted strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities doesn’t unite the Iranians or inspire nationalistic feelings. You’re totally misreading the situation.

alliebobbitt on July 5, 2009 at 7:07 PM

This is your country on Beach Boys.

This is your country on Beach Boys via John McCain.

Any questions?

Lockstein13 on July 5, 2009 at 7:55 PM

Israeli Sub

Israel does not publish details of the type of armaments it possesses but some foreign media reports say Dolphin-class subs can fire nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. Officials said the voyage was made overtly, with the vessel on the surface.

William Amos on July 5, 2009 at 8:42 PM

Plus, Biden gives a green light, too.

Help me out, here. Does Vice-President Cow-Dung-for-Brains have ANY idea exactly to whom, or for what, he was giving a green light? The idiot could have been approving an air strike on Dayton.

oldleprechaun on July 5, 2009 at 9:33 PM

Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. will not stand in Israel’s way if Israel believes military action is needed to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat.

Biden says the U.S. “cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.”

It would be very hard to believe that Adolf Obama approved of Biden saying that.

MB4 on July 5, 2009 at 9:53 PM

True… My point is that Mutual Assured Destruction comes into play if someone nukes Israel, even with an EMP. If all they have left is the ability to retaliate, very bad for everyone. So, let’s hope for a better endgame than that.
-

RalphyBoy on July 5, 2009 at 6:56 PM

Israel has what they call the Samson complex, they are never ever going out without taking everyone else with them.

doriangrey on July 5, 2009 at 10:41 PM

The cost of such a strike to Israel will be enormous; they will take heavy losses, and depending on how heavy they are, they may find themselves less able to defend themselves in Syria, for example, were to take advantage of the opportunity to attack them.

ProfessorMiao on July 5, 2009 at 3:43 PM

The Syrians aren’t in a position to take advantage of any situation versus the Israelis. In 1973 a better trained and equiped (relatively speaking) attacked an unprepared IDF in the Golan Heights which was outnumbered by over 10:1. The Syrians were stopped cold.

Even if the Israeli Air Force loses 50-100 aircraft, the situation would still be much better for the Israelis today. They have far superior equipment (the Syrians are stuck with a lot of aging 70′s era Soviet weapons), have greater numbers, will not be caught off guard, and would still have massive air superiority.

Heck, the Israelis would probably welcome Syrian involvement so they could knock off two for the price of one.

jarodea on July 5, 2009 at 10:43 PM

The truth is that everyone outside of the left hates Iran. Even the Muslim countries now that Iran is nuts and they don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons.

lavell12 on July 5, 2009 at 10:43 PM

Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. will not stand in Israel’s way if Israel believes military action is needed to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat.
Biden says the U.S. “cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.”

Every public statement by Vice President Joe Biden should be listed on Sarah Palin’s resumé.

Jaibones on July 5, 2009 at 11:03 PM

Well,now that the real mask,fell off Iran,
over the elections at gun-point so to speak,
Iran’s nuclear project,should of been dealt
with,over a year ago!!

canopfor on July 5, 2009 at 11:33 PM

The Syrians aren’t in a position to take advantage of any situation versus the Israelis. In 1973 a better trained and equiped (relatively speaking) attacked an unprepared IDF in the Golan Heights which was outnumbered by over 10:1. The Syrians were stopped cold.

jarodea on July 5, 2009 at 10:43 PM

Israel got lucky in ’73. The Syrians had routed the Israeli defenses on the Golan and could have punched right through with a free run down to the Galilee, pretty much finishing Israel on the ground. For an unknown reason, the Syrians stopped. Either they thought that Israel had more defenses and was suckering them in (which was untrue) or they were just stupid, no one knows, but they weren’t stopped by Israel.

’73 was a near loss for Israel. They were saved by luck and luck only. And still, Israel didn’t decimate Damascus, because Israel never fights wars, just defenses. This is why Israel has had to refight the same war every 10 years. Eventually, if Israel keeps giving them a chance, Israel will lose.

progressoverpeace on July 6, 2009 at 1:14 AM

I wonder what the Iranian street would do. Being attacked by another country has to make you nationalist. I don’t think an unprovoked attack is a good plan for Israel, so I don’t think they will do it.

But if the Iranians get really in your face about Israel again and Israel can claim they believed they were about to be attacked… Israel might even be good at faking that kind of thing for all I know. Of course I’m on Israel’s side but I don’t think they are innocent always.

petunia on July 6, 2009 at 3:12 AM

This is why Israel has had to refight the same war every 10 years.

That should have read: “This is why Israel has had war waged on it every 10 years.”

Israel never wins it, just fends it off.

progressoverpeace on July 6, 2009 at 4:23 AM

A military strike would unite Iranians against the world

Disagree. If the massive protests we’ve seen in Iran after this sham of an election are any indication, the people there who desire more freedom just might see an attack for what it is — an attack not on them but rather on the tyrannical regime.

infidel4life on July 6, 2009 at 5:31 AM

Biden says the U.S. “cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.”

Paging Honduras!

The mixed signals, the lack of cohesion, and the general tenor of weakness exhibited by these clowns is liable to get us all killed.

David2.0 on July 6, 2009 at 7:30 AM

an attack not on them but rather on the tyrannical regime.

infidel4life on July 6, 2009 at 5:31 AM

Ummm, I’m going to have to go with a big NO.

doriangrey on July 6, 2009 at 8:08 AM

Israel got lucky in ‘73. The Syrians had routed the Israeli defenses on the Golan and could have punched right through with a free run down to the Galilee, pretty much finishing Israel on the ground. For an unknown reason, the Syrians stopped. Either they thought that Israel had more defenses and was suckering them in (which was untrue) or they were just stupid, no one knows, but they weren’t stopped by Israel.

‘73 was a near loss for Israel. They were saved by luck and luck only. And still, Israel didn’t decimate Damascus, because Israel never fights wars, just defenses. This is why Israel has had to refight the same war every 10 years. Eventually, if Israel keeps giving them a chance, Israel will lose.

progressoverpeace on July 6, 2009 at 1:14 AM

“Stopped cold” was perhaps too strong, my point was despite up to 10:1 superiority the Syrians were back at their start lines 3 days later after achieving only small gains. Yes yes, the Syrians stopped for unknown reasons, so they were thrown back after 3 days instead of 4. But they would have unhinged Israel’s defense lines if they hadn’t stopped, and to gain what, opening themselves up to manuever warfare at which the Israelis excel and the Arabs decidedly do not.

The Israelis could have taken Damascus if they wanted. It is often a mistake to equate “didn’t” with “couldn’t” in history. The Israelis didn’t precisely because they are resigned to fighting the same war every decade or so. What would occupying Damascus and Cairo gain them? They would either withdraw changing little or have tens of millions of Arabs to occupy. Not to mention there’s the pesky problem of diplomatic pressures.

None of which changes my main point that the odds are so much more against the Syrians that starting a war is simply begging Israel to destroy the Syrian military. After all, what happens when the Syrians mysteriously stop moving this time (or make some other mistake as is bound to occur in any war)?

jarodea on July 6, 2009 at 9:58 AM

Either they thought that Israel had more defenses and was suckering them in (which was untrue) or they were just stupid, no one knows, but they weren’t stopped by Israel.

Didn’t catch that the first time, but we have a winner folks. Arab militaries are in general the most inept military forces in the world.

Also, just to re-emphasize, I don’t mean the IDF stopped the Syrians in a tactical sense (that almost never happens) but in an operational one.

jarodea on July 6, 2009 at 10:02 AM

A detail, Saudi Arabia and Israel don’t share a border, so Israeli aircraft would have to cross either Jordan or Egypt first.

LarryD on July 6, 2009 at 10:42 AM

The O can honestly submit to the Islamic countries that it was not he who turned a “blind” eye… but his wascally VP…eh eh eh eh….

CynicalOptimist on July 6, 2009 at 10:56 AM

The Israelis didn’t precisely because they are resigned to fighting the same war every decade or so.

But this is a recipe for eventual loss. Bernoulli trials, no matter how small the probability of failure, will eventually lead to failure.

What would occupying Damascus and Cairo gain them?

I wasn’t talking about occupation, but destruction.

None of which changes my main point that the odds are so much more against the Syrians that starting a war is simply begging Israel to destroy the Syrian military. After all, what happens when the Syrians mysteriously stop moving this time (or make some other mistake as is bound to occur in any war)?

jarodea on July 6, 2009 at 9:58 AM

jarod, I don’t disagree with this, or your original point. All I was saying was that Israel got very lucky in ’73. Many in Israel consider it to have been a miracle on the Golan, but miracles make for poor tactical planning.

The problem is that Syria and Syrians do not really worry about Israel doing damage to anything but the Syrian military (which can always be rebuilt – ready for another go in 10 years, or so). There is no fear in Syria that attacking Israel will bring death and devastation to anyone but the military. That is a very dangerous feeling for enemies to have.

progressoverpeace on July 6, 2009 at 11:21 AM

The US is said to have 10,000 targets in Iran. Primary among these are all nuclear facilities, including the nuclear power plant at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf coast near Kuwait, and the nuclear enrichment facilities in Natanz near Esfahan.

Bushehr is an industrial city, with nearly 1 million residents. As many as 70,000 foreign engineers work in the region, which includes a large gas field. Natanz is Iran’s primary enrichment site, north of Esfahan, which also has nuclear research facilities. Esfahan is a world heritage city with a population of 2 million.

As nuclear reactor fuel is used, it turns into uranium 238, which has a half life of 4.5 billion years. These radioactive isotopes are dangerous to health because they emit alpha particles and because they are chemically toxic. When inhaled, they damage lung tissue. When ingested, they damage kidneys and cause cancer in bones and in liver tissues. According to a recent review of medical research, uranium exposure causes babies to be deformed or born dead.

Never in history has it happened that nuclear power plants and nuclear enrichment facilities have been deliberately bombed. Such facilities, everywhere in the world, operate under severe safety conditions because the release of radioactive materials is deadly, immediately and also long after exposure.
If Israel deliberately bomb a fully fueled nuclear power plant or nuclear fuel enrichment facilities, containment will be breached; radioactive elements will be released into the environment. There will be horrific deaths for families in the surrounding vicinity.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated 3 million deaths would result in 3 weeks from bombing the nuclear enrichment facilities near Esfahan, and the contamination would cover Afghanistan, Pakistan, all the way to India.

Reactors and enrichment facilities are built of extra strong concrete, often with multiple layers of containment domes, often built underground.

Bombing such facilities will require powerful explosives, earth penetrator war heads, maybe nuclear warheads. The explosions will blow the contamination high into the atmosphere. Where will it go is a question that is difficult to predict.

Announcing that they successfully bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor, with no ill effects. Israel has also bombed the Osiraq nuclear reactor in Iraq. See, it’s easy. Nothing bad happens. But those were both construction sites, not loaded reactors full of tons of enriched uranium.

The planet is not large. What goes around, comes around. Smoke from the Gulf War oil fires went around the world and was detected in South America. Radioactive fallout from bombing a nuclear reactor will also go far, especially considering that it has millions of years to make the trip.

Military forces in the Persian Gulf, in Iraq, and infghanistan need to wonder how expendable they are.

mags on July 6, 2009 at 12:02 PM

This is a hard call. Israel has to be very very careful here.
I personally think if they attack Iran , It will give the Iranian gov the boogie man they are looking for. Then they can use that to imply that all the protestors are acting as dupes of Israel.

I am glad I am not in the position of Israel.
Very hard call.

ColdWarrior57 on July 6, 2009 at 12:10 PM

Why would our government create issues for these people and fan the flames of bad relations, other than the fact that our current administration has no backbone and no ability to negotiate, we send money instead. How pathetic. We are just stirring up more trouble for these people and will stand back and watch.

workingforpigs on July 6, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Where is OUR stand on korea? They are just giving us all the finger and showing exactly how much respect they have for our president. We weren’t a country of cowards before, why now??

workingforpigs on July 6, 2009 at 1:47 PM

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