According to a Yedioth Ahronoth report this morning, Saudi Arabia will not permit Israeli aircrafts to cross its territory on the way to strike Iran. The Yedioth Ahronoth report says the message was passed to Jerusalem via Obama administration officials during recent talks in Israel. Senior Israeli officials reportedly see the move as a warning message from the US not to launch a unilateral strike, the Israeli paper concludes.
The majority of the Saudi armed forces are supplied by US military equipment, and some analysts assess that if an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities were carried out in cooperation with the US, Saudi Arabia would permit the planes to pass through. On the other hand — as today’s Yedioth Ahronoth report suggests — if Israel were to act alone, Riyadh would likely intercept the Israeli planes.
The closing of Saudi airspace removes one potential flight path from Israel to Iran, but others exist: north over Turkey, or straight east through Jordan and Iraq. However, if Israel carried out the strike alone, it is unclear whether those countries would allow Israeli planes to cross their airspace as well.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, reportedly prefers the US to lead, or at least help in a possible strike on Iran. In Israel last week, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that “all options” were on the table for dealing with a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, including the military option. “If they [Iran] continue and if they proceed with a nuclear weapon,” he said, “we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that that does not happen.” Nevertheless, the US has reportedly expended much effort to hold Israel back from a lone strike – contending there is still time for diplomacy and sanctions to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.