Moscow is already placing odds on the outcome of a Middle East war expected to flare in the summer. Its stake comes in the form of hundreds of shore-to-ship C-802 missiles, part of a huge arms deal Syrian president Bashar Assad signed in the Kremlin for the purchase of 2,500 of these missiles, complete with the latest radar systems.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that a Russian airlift carrying the goods has been touching down at Syrian military air fields in Damascus and Latakia. The military transports are disguised by the colors and logo of private Russian airlines.
The bill for close to $1 billion will be settled by Iran as part of the general Tehran-Moscow settling of accounts for weapons purchases and nuclear business.
Moscow maintains that the missiles are entirely defensive. However, C-802s in this quantity, when strewn along the Syrian and Lebanese shorelines, constitute a grave menace to the American, Israel and NATO fleets stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, as well the German, French, Italian and Spanish vessels cruising opposite Lebanese shores under the flag of the UNIFIL international peacekeeping force.
Their deployment by Hizballah on the Lebanese coast will make it impossible for Israeli or European forces to approach them close enough for landings.
Designated in the West SACCADE, the C-802 missile has a range of 120 km and a 165- kilo warhead. Targeted ships have a very low success rate in intercepting the missile because it has a small radar reflectivity and its guidance gear has an extra-strong jamming capability. Therefore the C-802’s success rate is as high as 98 percent and, along with the US Harpoon, it is among the most efficient anti-ship missiles in the world.
It can be launched from airplanes, ships, submarines and land-based vehicles.
On July 14, 2006, two days after the Lebanon war began, a Hizballah C-802 seriously damaged an Israeli Saar 5-class missile vessel enforcing the blockade of Beirut. Four Israeli sailors were killed in the attack.
Another Hizballah missile sank a nearby Cambodian merchant ship at around the same time.
The Russians claim that their sales contract includes a clause requiring the purchaser, Damascus, to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and refrain from transferring them to Hizballah. However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that the Syrians don’t give a fig for their contract or UN resolutions and the missiles are already being smuggled into Lebanon. Damascus is sending weapons to the Hizballah in broad daylight, as the Russian know very well.
Tuesday night, May 8, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Assad to warn him that he has proof of Syrian violations of resolutions 1559 as well as 1701.