September 28, 2006

An Unlikely Alliance

I wonder what the rest of the Arab world must make of this:

Earlier this week, Israeli press reports suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met recently with a senior official in the Saudi government, maybe even with the Saudi king.

Olmert denied the reports but praised the Saudis for standing up against Hizballah in recent weeks. The Saudi government also dismissed reports of the meeting as a "fabrication." But other media reports persisted in suggesting that some contacts between Israeli and Saudi officials had taken place.

Whether or not the contacts took place, Saudi Arabia and Israel undoubtedly have a mutual interest -- Iran, said Dr. Guy Bechor from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

Saudi Arabia, a majority Sunni Muslim country, is concerned about the strengthening of ties between Shi'ite Muslims in Iran and Iraq and with Hizballah in Lebanon, said Bechor.

Iran has so far resisted international pressure to suspend its nuclear program, which Western states believe is intended to produce atomic weapons -- something that Iran denies.

"[The Saudis fear that] if there is some type of attack against Iran from the West, Iran will hit Saudi Arabia," said Bechor in a telephone interview.

Saudi Arabia is looking for friends and connections in the region and is working to create a Sunni alliance together with Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, and that anti-terror alliance could secretly include Israel, said Bechor.

The world seems to think that only the United States and Israel are likely to forcefully oppose Iran's apparent desire for nuclear weapons, but if the Saudi government forms ties with Israel over their joint concerns about Iranian intentions, then the dynamics we assumed about the pending conflict have the possibility to radically change.

The hope is that political pressure can be brought to bear to convince Iran that an attempt to develop nuclear weapons is not in their best interests. If a political settlement is unreachable, the shift them focuses to when Iran may face military action, and by whom.

Today Israel reiterated a position held by U.S. President George W. Bush that Iran would not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, and if Saudi Arabia can be counted upon for either passive or active support in military operations, the likelihood of political and military success in the wake of a pre-emptive strike increases dramatically.

If Saudi Arabia offers "passive" military aide by allowing Israeli strike aircraft to fly through and refuel in Saudi airspace, it would greatly reduce the amount of time IAF strike fights would have to spend in hostile air space, and enable Israeli aircraft to carry more munitions deeper into Iranian territory.

If Saudi Arabia offers active military assistance, particularly air power, then the situation could arise where a joint mission flown by the two most advanced air forces in the Middle East could put hundreds of strike aircraft over Iran, conceivably wrecking much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure without any direct involvement by American military forces at all. It is also worth mentioning that a joint strike conducted by regional powers instead of Western militaries, it would also be far more successful politically.

It seems unlikely that such a joint mission, or a multi-nation alliance mission is in the works, but the possibility will greatly complicate Iranian plans.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 28, 2006 03:29 PM | TrackBack

The Israel/Saudi(and Kuwaiti) freeze started thawing about a year ago. It doesn't get much press, because that would support the "neo-con agenda".

I found a few throwaway lines at the end of a much longer NYT piece about a year ago that suggested this was happening.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at September 28, 2006 05:55 PM

I fail to see why any of this surprises you. The Saudis have always loathed Iran, just as their leadership opposed Nasser during the 1960s; the Carter Doctrine was premised almost entirely on the perceived need to protect Saudi Arabia from all the US-manufactured weapons we'd sold Iran over the previous 15 years.

Israel, for its part, has always understood balance-of-power politics fairly well, which is why they helped train SAVAK (along with the United States) and provided military assistance to Iran throughout the rule of Mohammad Reza. I'm not sure what sort of "Israel/Saudi" thaw you're referring to, but I suspect it doesn't get much press in the US because it would unnecessarily confuse the moronic American consensus that the entire Arab world wishes to destroy Israel.

Posted by: d at September 28, 2006 09:06 PM

Arab world wishes to destroy Israel

If they could they certainly would, but they can't now that Israel has nukes. Of necessity the somewhat sane ones have to come to accomodation.

Prior to Israel building the nukes, there were several attempts generally considered serious. Or have you conveniently forgotten those?

Posted by: Purple Avenger at September 29, 2006 12:16 AM

there were several attempts generally considered serious. Or have you conveniently forgotten those?

The best guess is that Israel acquired nuclear capability by 1966. Nukes have little to do with Israel's capacity to defend itself -- their conventional forces are extraordinarily powerful (though they are clearly inept at waging unconventional war, as two wars in Lebanon have demonstrated) While there's no question the Arab states rejected the creation of Israel and did everything possible to prevent it, contemporary historians -- especially Israeli ones -- no longer subscribe to the claim that Israel was ever outmatched during the 1948 war, the only "serious" threat ever posed to the existence of Israel. Israel's military was vastly superior to the Arab armies even prior to independence in May 1948. But if that war was a "serious" attempt to eradicate Israel, then the word "serious" loses all meaning. The Arab states performed so abysmally that within five years most of their leaders had been deposed, replaced by subsequent generations who understood that they could do little but wave their fists angrily while seeking to avoid direct confrontation with Israel.

If nuclear weapons were such a powerful deterrent, (a) Israel would actually 'fess up to having them; and (b) Israel would not have been attacked by Egypt and Syria in 1973 (or goaded into attacking Egypt in 1967).

Posted by: d at September 29, 2006 12:37 AM