Thursday, January 18, 2007

Syria, Iran, Russia working to isolate Israel, US

December 19, 2006: Assad Is in Moscow with Half-Billion Iranian Dollars to Upgrade His Army. Syrian president Bashar Asad arrived in Moscow Monday night, Dec. 18, with two items for his host, President Vladimir Putin: A shopping list for weapons and half a billion dollars put up by Iran - in cash if needed - to purchase Russian arms.

Asad's generals have drawn fully on the lessons of Hizballah's war against Israel in July and August and made fitting adjustments. The Syrian army is in the process of being rearmed with large quantities of anti-tank rockets and tactical changes have been introduced in the armed forces 12 divisions. Before the Lebanon war, only one company in every Syrian brigade was equipped with anti-tank rockets and anti-air shoulder-borne missiles. Since then, thousands of these missiles are being distributed to every Syrian unit. Our military sources report that all five Syrian divisions stationed on the Golan frontier with Israel have been issued with these anti-tank and anti-air rockets.

The Kornet or AT-14 anti-tank rocket is wire-guided to hit targets with high precision at a distance of up to 3.5 kilometers as the crow flies. It can pierce 1,100-1,200 mm of armor. In the Lebanon war, Hizballah deployed the Kornet delivered by the Syrian army with great effectiveness against the Israeli Chariot tanks, inflicting a high level of casualties. Moscow has strenuously denied letting the Kornet missiles sold to Syria reach Hizballah's hands. Officials there refused to admit that the rockets which struck Israel tanks in the war were Russian made, even after an Israeli military delegation headed by Ilan Mizrahi, director of the national security council brought to Moscow exhibits of Kornet missile parts collected from the battlefield and photographs in support Israel's complaint.

The Americans had their first experience of the Russian Kornet in Iraq in 2003 when it knocked US Abrams M1 tanks out of action. They are now widely used by Iraq's Sunni insurgents.

15 January: Our sources report that before he left, Assad clinched a deal with Moscow to purchase [an anti-aircraft] system on credit from Iran as part of Tehran's arms transactions with the Russians. This is worrisome news indeed. It will place in the radical Asad regime's hands a strategic weapon capable not only of downing Israeli planes while still in Israeli air space, but also US and European aircraft taking off from carriers in the eastern Mediterranean.
Washington again ups the military stakes against Iran, plans deployment of 600 Patriot anti-missile missiles in Middle East. The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress Friday that Iranians are now on the US target list in Iraq. He spoke of an "aggressive ground campaign" against Iranian networks operating inside Iraq. The Pentagon has also referred to possible cross-border raids into Iran, but so far none has been approved. The stakes have been rising since Wednesday, Jan. 10, when the US president vowed to seek out and destroy Iranian and Syrian networks disrupting US operations in Iran and fomenting violence.

Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov confirms the sale of short-range anti-aircraft TOR-M1 missiles to Iran, as first revealed by DEBKAfile on Dec. 19, 2006. Ivanon stated that Moscow will consider further requests from Tehran for defensive weapons. The Russian minister added: "Iran is not under sanctions and if it wants to buy defensive equipment for its armed forces then why not?" He insisted that the UN sanctions restricting Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology "do not apply to missiles."

According to our Moscow sources, Putin and Ivanov are determined to equip Tehran and Damascus with defensive hardware to deter the United States and Israel from attacking both countries by the threat of heavy casualties. Last December, DEBKAfile's military sources reported the conviction of some Iranian and Russian aid defense experts that the deployment of Tor-M1 missiles at Iran's nuclear installations will make it almost impossible for the Americans or Israelis to knock out those facilities for any lengthy period. Therefore, they estimated that any US or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear sites must go forward in the next six months before the new Russian anti-air systems are in place.