A unilateral strike on the Iranian nuclear program is not Israel's preferred option. However, if Israel does decide to proceed with the mission unilaterally, the different routes the strike package could take each pose unique challenges. Currently, the Israeli air force has three principal routes to its targets in Iran. The first route involves flying northward over the eastern Mediterranean Sea between Cyprus and Syria, and then proceeding eastward along the Turkey-Syria border, flying through northern Iraq and into Iran. This route circumvents Syria's air defense network, which was built to cover its western flank against an Israeli air attack. The second route is the shortest and involves flying directly over Jordan and Iraq to reach Iran. Due to the shorter distance, the likelihood that Jordan could be deterred from interfering with the strike package, and the absence of any viable Iraqi air defense, this route probably poses the least risk. The third route goes through northern Saudi Arabia, over the Persian Gulf and into Iran. While most of Saudi Arabia's air defenses and air bases are oriented toward the Persian Gulf and the main cities to the south, Israeli planes would almost certainly be detected, especially since they would have to fly near Tabuk's air base. If Riyadh did choose to intercept the Israeli aircraft, the Israeli air force would face serious complications because Saudi Arabia has a large number of advanced interceptor aircraft. As the war in Syria intensifies, another route may become viable. Rebel operations have already negatively affected the Syrian regime's air defenses somewhat. If this trend intensifies, the country's air defense network may be degraded to the extent that the Israeli air force would be able to fly directly over Syria without undue risk to its aircraft.
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