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?