Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh flatly denied a report published Saturday in a British newspaper claiming that Israel had opened negotiations to fly through US-controlled airspace in Iraq in the event that it would decide to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed Israeli defense official as saying the discussions were aimed at planning for all scenarios, including any future decision to target Iran's nuclear program. Israeli bombers would need a corridor through US-administered airspace in Iraq to carry out any strikes, the official was quoted as saying. Calling the report "baseless," Sneh, the highest-ranking Israeli official to comment Saturday, claimed that the publication was meant to divert the world's attention from the need to impose sanctions on Iran. The international community's focus should be on imposing economic sanctions on Iran for defying UN Security Council resolutions, he said.
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"No request to coalition forces was made by Israel," Sneh said. "This publication is meant to try to make Israel the one responsible for solving the Iranian problem."
While Sneh rejected the validity of the report, the quickest and most convenient route to Iran would be over Jordan and Iraq. According to Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom of the Institute for National Security Studies from Tel Aviv University, Israel would be best off flying the longer route over the Indian Ocean with minimal penetration of other states' airspace. Israel could also jeopardize the entire mission by asking Jordan or the US for permission prior to the flights.
"Flying through Jordan without the explicit or implicit permission of the Jordanians would hurt relations with a friendly Arab state," Brom wrote in a recent article in the book Getting Ready for a Nuclear Iran. "Flying over Iraq without coordination with the United States would lead to a clash with US interceptors."
On Monday, officials from the five permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, the US, France, China and Russia - and Germany are due to meet in London to discuss new sanctions against Teheran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week that Iran had ignored a council ultimatum to freeze its uranium enrichment work - a possible pathway to nuclear arms - and had expanded its program.