Saudi Arabia has informed Israel that it would intercept any Air Force aircraft crossing its airspace en route to Iran, Yediot reported on Thursday. The explicit message was transmitted via the US during talks with Obama administration officials in Jerusalem. Senior Israeli officials have claimed that the US are leveraging the Saudi threat in an attempt to dissuade Israel from launching a unilateral offensive on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Some sources estimate that Saudi Arabia would have allowed Israel to cross its airspace if the latter coordinated its military operation with the White House. Meanwhile, the NYT has claimed that Israel will prefer to use a direct route that passes over Jordan and Iraq. Foreign commentators have estimated that the Jordanians will turn a blind eye, yet others have said that Amman might consider the act a breach of its peace accord with Israel. Two other possible routes are over Turkey and Syria, or a longer route along the Red Sea. Last week, Yediot reported that the US would only be prepared to carry out a strike against Iran in 18 months, when a “critical threshold” was crossed, and was resolutely against an Israeli strike. While Washington is trying to stall any military attack against Iran, the NYT reported on Wednesday that the US was pushing its Gulf allies to set up a regional missile defense system aimed at protecting strategic areas including military bases and infrastructure from an Iranian attack. Clinton told representatives from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE:
More can be done to defend the Gulf through cooperation on ballistic missile defense. Sometimes to defend one nation effectively you might need a radar system in a neighboring nation. But it’s the cooperation, it’s what they call ‘interoperability’ that we now need to really roll up our sleeves and get to work on.
The report stated that unlike the regional missile defense system in Europe, the Persian Gulf effort is mostly behind the scenes, and on a country-by-country basis, with billions of dollars in arms sales negotiated bilaterally between the US and nations in the region. Therefore, the challenge to the US will be to convince the Gulf countries to set aside their rivalries and share early warning radar data, and then integrate the capabilities of their unilateral missile interceptor systems to extend defenses over the entire region.