LONDON — Saudi Arabia will allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran's nuclear facilities, the London Times reported on Saturday.
Quoting unnamed U.S. defense sources, the newspaper said Riyadh conducted tests to be sure its own jets would not be scrambled and missile defenses not be activated so Israeli bombers could pass by without problems.
The path would shorten Israel's bomb run, The Times said.
Once the Israelis go through, the kingdom’s air defenses would return to full alert, the newspaper said.
"The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way," said a U.S. defense source in the Persian Gulf area told the Times. "They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department."
Permission 'common knowledge'
Sources in Saudi Arabia said it is common knowledge within kingdom defense circles that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid, the Times said. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
"We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing," a Saudi source told the Times.
The newspaper pinpointed four main targets: The uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Secondary targets include the Russian-built lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete, the Times said.
The targets lie as far as 1,400 miles from Israel, the paper said, noting that distance is the outer limits of the Jewish state's 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, the newspaper said.
Plan needs U.S. consent
Passing over Iraq would require Washington's consent. The Obama administration has refused to give its approval as it pursues a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Times said.
The Times' revelation comes in the same week the U.N. Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran. Israel and the West accuse Iran of building nuclear weapons, a charge it denies. Iran vowed to continue enriching uranium after the vote.
Israeli officials refused to comment on details for a raid on Iran, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to rule out, the Times said.
Aharaon Zeevi Farkash, who headed military intelligence until 2006 and has been involved in war games simulating a strike on Iran, told the Times: "I know that Saudi Arabia is even more afraid than Israel of an Iranian nuclear capacity."
Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, is believed to have held secret meetings with high-ranking Saudi officials over Iran, said Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.
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