x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Saudi air space is 'not open' for attack on Iran

Saudi analysts reject media reports the kingdom has given permission to Israel to use its air space for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

RIYADH // Saudi analysts have rejected media reports that the kingdom has given permission to Israel to use its air space for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the head of Mossad, Israel's overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran's nuclear sites.

Jamal Khashoggi, an expert on Saudi foreign policy and editor-in-chief of Al Watan newspaper, said the report was false and was another attempt to provoke the country into revealing its plans towards Iran. Mr Khashoggi said Saudi Arabia was not involved in any bilateral discussion with any countries regarding Iran's nuclear programme. "I don't think that Saudi Arabia is interested in any discussion on a possible military move against Iran with the US, its major ally, let alone its foe," Mr Khashoggi said, referring to Israel. The Israeli prime minister's office also denied the report, telling reporters the story "lacks all factual basis".

Mr Khashoggi said Saudi Arabia would not take any bilateral actions against Iran and its future actions would be based on agreements with the international community. "Saudi will not take an action against Iran outside of the domain of the Security Council," he said. Saud Kabli, an international relations researcher and a columnist at Al Watan, said the story in the Sunday Times is just another "balloon test" that Israel makes regularly to gauge the reactions of Saudi Arabia to any military strike against Iran.

"News like this aims at deepening the Arab-Iranian conflict by conveying a false message that there is an Arab conspiracy against Iran," he said. Mr Kabli said the news is directed towards the Israeli public as much as it is directed towards the international community because Israel is trying to tell its citizens that it is not standing "idle" when it comes to Iran. "Israel wants to send a clear message to the major players involved in the Arab-Iranian conflict, mainly the US, Russia, and China, that any military move against Iran is in the interest of Saudi but this is untrue.

"I think the Saudis should send a strong media message that no discussions with Israel will ever be possible outside the international community's domain," he said. wmahdi@thenational.ae