JERUSALEM—Saudi Arabia has let Israel know that it is prepared to allow Israeli warplanes to fly over Saudi territory to bomb nuclear installations in Iran if that should prove necessary, Israel’s Channel Two has reported.
The station cited a “knowledgeable” European official in Brussels as saying “The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran.”
The Jewish state and the Saudi kingdom, site of the holiest shrines in Islam, share a strategic concern over Iran’s pursuit of influence in the region and the possibility that it will produce nuclear weapons. Israel’s concern is focused on threats by Iranian leaders that it will be wiped off the map. Saudi Arabia, whose state religion is Sunni Islam, sees Iran as an aggressive Shiite opponent. Both are unwilling to countenance the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.
According to the television report, Israel and Saudi Arabia share intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear program and are concerned about reported concessions made by the West in the comprehensive agreement it is attempting to hammer out with Tehran on the issue. Although the agreement is supposed to diminish the possibility of Iran’s producing a bomb in the near future, both Jerusalem and Riyadh object to the possibility that it will be left with a nuclear infrastructure capable of being activated in a brief time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is set to address a joint session of Congress on the subject next week at the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio). The White House and Democratic leaders have expressed displeasure with the planned speech.
Channel Two’s foreign affairs reporter said that the Saudis have asked Israel for “some kind of progress” on the Palestinian issue to make Riyadh’s cooperation with Israel more palatable in the Muslim world. There has been no Israeli reaction to the report.
If Israeli planes overfly Saudi territory they would be spared a lengthy detour around the Persian Gulf, leaving them more time over target.
Israeli warplanes have overflown Saudi territory at least once before when they bombed and destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. The eight planes involved flew close to the desert floor in an attempt to avoid Saudi radar. There was no attempt to intercept them.
In November, 2013, the Sunday Times of London reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia were secretly discussing cooperation for an Israeli air attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities should talks held in Geneva fail to roll back Iran’s nuclear program. In addition to opening its air space to Israeli warplanes, according to the report, Riyadh was willing to permit Israel to use its territory, or air space, for passage of drones, rescue helicopters, and tanker planes. “Once the Geneva agreement is signed,” said an unnamed diplomatic source quoted by the Times, “the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs.”
Meanwhile, Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan army general who is seen by many in Libya as a bulwark against Islamic militias in that country, is planning to meet Israeli officials in the Jordanian capital of Amman, according to the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The president of Libya’s elected parliament has proposed appointing Haftar as top military commander.