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Saudi Arabia Finances Most of Israel’s Weapons Build-Up Against Iran

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Israeli and Saudi intelligence chiefs met recently to coordinate joint efforts in their military-intelligence campaign against Iran

Over the past months, the level of intense cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in targeting Iran has become clear.  I’ve posted here about secret meetings between top Israeli and Saudi intelligence figures which have allowed coordination of the campaigns involving both Syria and Iran.  But Shalom Yerushalmi, writing in Maariv, dropped an even more amazing bombshell. Saudi Arabia isn’t just coordinating its own intelligence efforts with Israel.  It’s actually financing a good deal of Israel’s very expensive campaign against Iran.  As you know, this has involved massive sabotage against IRG missile bases, the assassination of five nuclear scientists, the creation of a series of computer cyberweapons like Stuxnet and Flame.  It may also conceivably involve an entire class of electronic and conventional weapons that could be used in a full-scale attack on Iran.  Who knows, this might even include the sorts of bunker buster bombs only the U.S. currently has access to, which could penetrate the Fordo facility.  It might include scores more super-tankers which could provide the fuel necessary for Israeli planes to make it to Iran and return.  All of this is expensive.  Very expensive. We can see just how expensive by examining Barry Lando’s October 2012 investigative piece also based on Israeli sources which says the Saudi funding may exceed $1-billion:

A friend, with good sources in the Israeli government, claims that the head of Israel’s Mossad has made several trips to deal with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia—one of the results: an agreement that the Saudis would bankroll the series of assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts that have occurred over the past couple of years.  The amount involved, my friend claims, was $1 billion dollars. A sum, he says, the Saudis considered cheap for the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program.

Returning to Yerushalmi, he referred to Bibi’s recent Aipac speech and an implicit reference in it to Saudi Arabia:

Netanyahu spoke there, for the first time in his life, about the benefits of peace, the prosperity that will follow, about the possibility that Arab states, which today maintain better relations with us than those in the European Union, but in private, will do so publicly if we only reach an agreement with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu referred almost certainly to Saudi Arabia, which finances the expenses of the enormous campaign which we are conducting against Iran.

In the past, I’ve noted that George Bush allocated $400-million in 2007 for just such sabotage directed against Iran.  I presumed that a good deal of that funding might end up supporting similar sorts of Israeli efforts.   It’s possible that the new Obama administration cut off this funding after assuming office in 2008.  Whatever the reason, Saudi Arabia is now a critical funder of Israel’s military effort against Iran.

The question is how far is Saudi Arabia willing to go.  If Bibi ever decided to launch an attack, would the Sunni nation fund that as well?  The answer seems clearly to be yes.

The next question is, given there is airtight military censorship in Israel, why did the censor allow Maariv to publish this?  Either someone was asleep at the switch or the IDF and Israel’s political and intelligence officials want the world to know of the Saudi-Israeli effort.  Who specifically do they want to know?  Obama, of course.  In the event the nuclear talks go south, Bibi wants Obama to know there’s a new Sugar Daddy in town.  No longer will Israel have only the U.S. to rely on if it decides to go to war.  Saudi Arabia will be standing right behind.

This isn’t the first time that foreign sources played a major role in subsidizing critical Israeli efforts to develop such game-changing weapons systems.  In the early 1960s, Abraham Feinberg, a wealthy American Jew whose name now graces a building a Brandeis University, coordinated a major fundraising effort on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion.  As a result, American Jews played an instrumental role in paying for Israel’s first nuclear weapons.

Frankly, I don’t think this news substantially alters the military calculus.  Israel, even with unlimited funding, still can’t muster the weapons and armaments it would need to do the job properly.  That will take time.  But Israel isn’t going to war tomorrow.  This news reported in Maariv is presumably Bibi playing one card from his hand.  It’s an attempt to warn the president that the U.S. is no longer the only game in town.  Personally, it’s the sort of huffing and puffing that I can’t imagine plays well in Washington.  But it’s the way Bibi plays the game.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • brenda March 8, 2014, 6:16 AM

    Richard, if indeed Netanyahu is using Ma’ariv to send a message to Obama, isn’t he also inadvertently sending a message to Iran? Do you think such a message would give the Iranian leadership pause, maybe galvanize Iran to mending fence with the West? That is one positive thing that could come out of such machinations.

    Isaac Shahak regarded the Hebrew press as a protected inner sanctum where Israeli politicians and military men could kick back and brag about their accomplishments. Do you think this view is outdated or never held water to begin with? Please respond. These are questions which keep me awake at night.

    • Richard Silverstein March 9, 2014, 3:09 AM

      @ brenda: What you say is possible. I think Iran realizes Bibi & the Saudis would cut Iran’s heart out in a minute if they could. So perhaps the offer of the west might seem quite attractive. But I think the offer has to be one the Iranians can live with without losing face or their nuclear program entirely. I’m guessing the Iranians are also quite fatalistic & fully prepared that there could be such a war.

      I’ve written a lot about the Israeli press here. I think there are some good, serious reporters who I’ve mentioned here. They deserve respect. But there are so many who coast and act as stenographers for whoever’s in power. They feed at the trough, sniff out their tidbits & dutifully regurgitate them on command. The awful economics of the newspaper industry in Israel exacerbate the problem.

      I wish there were more of the former & less of the latter.

  • pabelmont March 8, 2014, 4:07 PM

    Wonder if poor Pres. Obama, with I/P here and Ukraine there, and Tea-Party elsewhere, cna get any sort of act together. Kerry apparently giving up, as is expected. But could Obama speak to Saudi Arabia, or is that as troubling as speaking to Putin? Or BB?

  • Davey March 8, 2014, 6:15 PM

    It seems to me unlikely the Saudis would do anything like this without American approval. Their backs are not covered by Israel but he US.

    • Richard Silverstein March 9, 2014, 3:03 AM

      @ Davey: I disagree. The Saudis are disgusted with Obama & the overture to Iran. They’re in the same boat as Israel, feeling betrayed by America’s refusal to go head to head against the Ayatollahs!

      • Renfro March 10, 2014, 12:29 PM

        I agree. The Saudis think they can thumb their nose at the US—not because the US needs their oil, we don’t any more,we could easily replace the 25% of the oil we get from the ME elsewhere—-but any reduction of availability from the ME would hamstring other countries and affect the global economy which would then affect the US.
        So that’s their leverage. The new Saudi crown prince, the one slotted to replace the King is a real hard-ass—he announced his goal as the ‘protection of the Saudi throne at all cost.’

  • The Obvious March 10, 2014, 7:22 AM

    [comment deleted: anti-Semitic rhetoric is forbidden]

  • Craig March 10, 2014, 1:35 PM

    The difficulty I have with the article is that while I agree the Isrealis and Saudis collective interests match up – Isreal is not in need of a “new sugar daddy”. While 30 or 40 years ago Isreal needed donations, that is no longer accurate. On a per capita basis Isreal has one of the highest ratios of USD equivalent millionaires (exclusive of real estate) right up there with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Their high tech prowess is legendary and they have recently discovered huge off shore gas fields. So while the Isreali – Saudi alliance is more likely than not – your premise that Isreal needs funding is completely off base so it makes you wonder about the rest of the report.

    • Richard Silverstein March 10, 2014, 2:00 PM

      So you think Israel can come up with a few billion dollars to take on a task like this? How much do you know about Israel’s budget? Not very much. Do you know how tight that budget is? How little funding Israel has for critical tasks like education, health, etc.

      Of course, Israel has millionaires & billionaires. But most of them avoid taxes just as those in the U.S. do. Except that in Israel the tax regime is even more lax than here. Offshore accounts in Jersey and elsewhere are common place. Even Bibi is reputed to have them.

      Further, offshore gas deposits are not yet productive. Billions are required, in fact, to explore them.

      Next time, before casting aspersion on my reporting you might ask questions that would educate you about the issues on which you’re claiming expertise.

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