Worries About Saudi Planes Cloud U.S.-Israel Strategic Talks

(Ha'aretz) Aluf Benn - IDF officers are worried about the deployment of Saudi F-15 planes relatively close to the Gulf of Eilat, believing it poses grave dangers to Israel. A flight between the Saudi base, Tabuk, and Israel's border is less than 200 kilometers, making it difficult for the IDF to intercept one of these F-15s in the event of a surprise, kamikaze-style, suicide attack. Saudi Arabia purchased its first F-15s from the U.S. in 1978. When Israel objected to the sale, the Pentagon promised the planes would not be stationed at Tabuk, near Eilat, and would instead be held deep within Saudi Arabia. Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Harold Brown vowed that, should Saudi Arabia violate its commitment, the U.S. would withhold spare parts, and would not help the Saudis maintain the planes. In early 2003, on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. asked Israel to agree to a temporary redeployment of the Saudi planes in Tabuk, until the end of the war. When the fighting ended, the Saudis refused to move the F-15s back to bases within Saudi Arabia. IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon stated that al-Qaeda in the past tried to recruit a Saudi air force pilot for a kamikaze-type attack on a high building in Israel.

2003-10-22 00:00:00

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