Israel has reportedly requested permission from the United States to fly through Iraqi airspace, in case Jerusalem should decide to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.
A senior Israeli defense official said negotiations were underway for the US to provide an ‘air corridor’ over Iraq.
However, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh denied the report Saturday and said any talk of an Israeli offensive against Iran was speculative alone.
Sneh said the reports apparently came from sources that did not want to uphold responsibility for the diplomatic inaction regarding Iran’s possible nuclear armament.
“It is convenient for them to roll the ball into the Israeli court,” Sneh said.
In the event that Israel should target Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israeli war planes would have to fly across Iraq to reach their targets, for which they need authorization from the Pentagon.
The Israeli defense official who spoke to the Telegraph said Israel was "planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important."
"The only way to do this is to fly through US-controlled air space. If we don't sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other," he added.
Cheney: All options on the table
Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out at a UN-defiant Iran Saturday, warning anew that "all options" are available in dealing with the Midddle East nation over its nuclear program.
Cheney, speaking at a joint news conference with Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, said the United States was working with its allies to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear weapons programs and that it was Washington's preference for that to happen peacefully.
"But all options are still on the table," Cheney told reporters.
The next step toward getting Iran to abandon its nuclear programs was still being debated, he said.
"It would be a serious mistake if a nation such as Iran became a nuclear power," Cheney said.
UN: Iran ignoring ultimatum
Cheney's comments came two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had not only ignored a UN Security Council ultimatum to freeze the enrichment program, but also had expanded that program by setting up hundreds of centrifuges. Enriched uranium fuels nuclear reactors but, enriched further, is used in nuclear bombs.
Iran says its atomic program is aimed solely at generating energy, but Israel, the United States and some of their allies suspect that it is geared toward making nuclear weapons.
US officials have long refused to rule out any options in the face-off with Tehran but say military action would be a last resort.
Cheney said Iran has sponsored terrorism in the Middle East, and he accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of making inflammatory statements.
Cheney did not specify which of Ahmadinejad's remarks he was referring to.
The Associated Press contributed to the report