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Iran's Nukes

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Saudis Reportedly Grant Israel a Narrow Corridor to Bomb Iran's Nuclear Facilities

June 14th 2010

Israeli Military - Israeli Jet

Saudi Arabia has made preparations to allow the over-flight of the Israeli air force in the case of an eventual bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

According to media reports, just days after the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on the Islamic Republic, the oil kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow Israel to utilize an essential corridor in its air space and thereby shorten the route for a raid on Iran. 

In order to allow the Israeli raid, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defense systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defenses will return to full alert.

The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way, according to US Defense Department sources, which averred that Saudi jets will not be scrambled and Israel’s will not be shot down. The US State Department is apparently in agreement, according to the Times of London, which covered the story in its weekend papers.

Saudi Arabian sources, according to the Times, say it is common knowledge in the oil 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 Iran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The four main targets in Iran would be the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan. and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Other targets would be the lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete.

The targets lie as far as 1,400 miles (2,250km) from Israel, which is at the outer limits of their bombers’ range, even with aerial refueling. An open corridor across northern Saudi Arabia would significantly shorten the distance. An airstrike would involve multiple waves of bombers, possibly crossing Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Aircraft attacking Bushehr, on the Gulf coast, could swing beneath Kuwait to strike from the southwest.

Passing over Iraq would require at least tacit agreement to the raid from the United States.

So far, the Obama Administration has refused to give its approval as it pursues a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Military analysts say Israel has held back only because of this failure to secure consensus from the United States and Arab states. Military analysts doubt that an airstrike alone would be sufficient to knock out the key nuclear facilities, which are heavily fortified and deep underground or within mountains.

If the UN sanctions prove ineffective, Israeli pressure on Washington to approve military action will intensify. Iran has vowed to continue enriching uranium after the UN Security Council imposed its toughest sanctions yet in an effort to halt the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, which Iran claims is intended for civilian energy purposes only. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described the UN resolution as “a used handkerchief, which should be thrown in the dustbin.”

Israeli officials have refused to comment on any planned raid on Iran, even while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refused to one rule out. Aharaon Zeevi Farkash, who headed Israeli military intelligence until 2006 and has been involved in war games simulating a strike on Iran, said that he knows that Saudi Arabia is even more afraid than Israel of an Iranian nuclear capacity.”

In 2007, Israel was reported to have used Turkish air space to attack a suspected nuclear reactor being built by Iran’s main regional ally, Syria. Although Turkey publicly protested against the “violation” of its air space, it is thought to have turned a blind eye in what many saw as a dry run for a strike on better-defended  nuclear sites.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are at least as worried as the West about an Iranian nuclear arsenal. Israel has sent missile-class warships and at least one submarine capable of launching a nuclear warhead through the Suez Canal for deployment in the Red Sea within the past year, as both a warning to Iran and in anticipation of a possible strike. Israeli newspapers reported in 2009 that high-ranking officials, including the former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have met their Saudi Arabian counterparts to discuss the Iranian issue. It was also reported that Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, met Saudi intelligence officials in 2009 to gain assurances that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets violating Saudi airspace during the bombing run. Both governments have denied the reports.

Israel has conducted significant preparations for an eventual attack on Iran, while even preparing its civilian population for war. In 2009, the Israeli air force conducted exercises over the skies of Greece, which has a Russian-built air defense system resembling Iran’s. A raid by Israeli air forces could be risky and would require very accurate bombing runs intended to cripple Iranian nuclear facilities and defenses, such as its Russian-made S-300 radar-guided missile systems--not yet operational. The operational status of the S-300 was first reported as pivotal to Israeli military planners in The Cutting Edge News. Israel will probably also rely on its squadron of Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft for the actual attack.

Cutting Edge senior correspondent Martin Barillas is editor of SperoForum.com.


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