It should go without saying that Israel and Saudi Arabia are never going to be allies. The two countries don’t maintain any formal diplomatic ties after 65 years and Saudi Arabia has long been a sponsor of terrorism against Israel. But…potentially faced with a deal between Iran and the P5+1 Group on the former’s nuclear program, a deal that is sounding all the more inevitable these days, there is a report that the Jewish State and the House of Saud may just combine forces in an attack on Iran should dissatisfaction at the deal carry the day.
According to the diplomatic source quoted by the [Sunday] Times, Saudia Arabia has agreed to let Israel use its air space, and assist an Israeli attack by cooperating on the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.
Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is reportedly working with Saudi officials to make arrangements following the signing of a nuclear deal in Geneva.
“Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” the Times quoted the source as saying.
Wow. A lesson for those young countries out there…if you want the world to take you seriously about something, float the idea that you are willing to work with your mortal enemy to achieve it. Now throw in a highly unpopular, extraordinarily daring military endeavor with a considerable risk of failure and you’ve got the ultimate brushback pitch. High and inside. Like Roy Oswalt.
Is this report complete and total poppycock? Possibly. Does that mean it won’t be taken seriously? Given the ardor with which both Saudi Arabia and Israel have been campaigning against the deal with Iran (or anything short of a total dismantling of its nuclear program), it would not seem to be completely unreasonable if both parties remain as outraged as they’ve been during the past few weeks of diplo-futzing. Regardless, it’s surreal to imagine these two countries cooperating on a military mission. It falls somewhere in between Irish Unionists and Nationalists fighting together in World War I and picturing the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees sharing a spring training camp together.
It’s also a watershed moment between Israel and the United States. Saudi Arabia–with this summer’s Syrian kerfuffle in mind–has been apoplectic about the American foreign policy strategy of late, but Israel had seemingly limited its chutzpadik second-guessing of the United States until now. Over at the Washington Post, David Ignatius frames the jockeying between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is pushing Congress to impose more sanctions on Iran, by comparing it another time U.S. and Israeli heads of state butted heads. In this case, it was over Saudi Arabia.
The 1981 “Reagan or Begin” battle involved congressional approval of airborne early warning and control (AWAC) radar-surveillance planes for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia now is Israel’s de-facto ally against Iran, but back then it was a bitter foe. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin tried to block the sale despite President Reagan’s advocacy. Reagan won the test, and the AWAC sales went forward.
It’s going to be a long week.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.