A single Patriot anti-missile battery was stationed Monday, May 24, at Morag in northwestern Poland, less than 40 miles from the Russian naval and air bases in the enclave of Kaliningrad. A hundred US troops were attached to the site for training Polish soldiers in its use.
Although the Patriot was a pale relic of the missile shield President George W. Bush planned for East Europe, it drew deep frowns in Moscow. Seekers of comments were referred to the Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko's statement of a month ago that such unilateral moves by the US cannot be left unaddressed.
Russian pundits specializing in US-Russian relations took a somewhat sharper tone, describing the move as a deliberate attempt to undermine Russian-American relations.
What would the Russians have said if the United States, or any foreign power, had parked not a single air defense Patriot, but 800 Scud-D surface-to-surface strike missiles with a 700-1,000-mile range, capable of carrying chemical or nuclear warheads – not 40 miles, but less than 16 miles from their territory?
That is exactly what Syrian President Bashar Assad has done, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources reveal here. They are not part of the Syrian Army's array of missiles for deterring an Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Syria, but parked on the Syrian-Lebanese border, painted in Hizballah battle colors and assigned Hizballah store serial numbers. Each battery has its own Hizballah unit, attached after learning how to operate them at Syrian bases for the past half year.
Unparalleled bonanza for Hizballah
Wednesday and Thursday, May 26-27, tensions shot up several notches when Beirut lined up behind Damascus and Hizballah and boosted its army units on the South Lebanese-Israel border "against any emergency" and the Syrian army placed all its units on war preparedness, ordering its ballistic missile units to switch to firing positions.
Israel, which ended its homeland defense exercise against missile attack Thursday, May 27, prepared to join Greece next week in a joint naval and aerial exercise for practicing in-flight refueling.
(For details, see also HOT POINTS below)
The stages of the buildup approaching its peak were progressively covered in DEBKA-Net-Weekly and debkafile's reports. Even so, all our experts were astounded to learn that the unheard-of number of 800 Scuds had been assigned to Hizballah, a fact never disclosed until now.
The entire Scud D behemoth is now positioned ready for removal into Lebanon at one and-a-half hour's notice from Assad's green light. The Hizballah crews have been taught to launch them on the move at predetermined Israeli targets.
Syria, Iran and Hizballah have made military history – and that is why the Middle East is teetering on the brink of war. Four armies were on combat readiness Wednesday, May 26 after the Lebanese Army lined up behind Syria and Hizballah against Israel's Defense Forces and Syrian ballistic missiles were placed in firing positions.
Never has any army, least of all a terrorist organization like the Shiite Hizballah, ever commanded so many surface-to-surface strike missiles and held them ready to fire on a neighbor's cities.
By comparison, North Korea's arsenal is also estimated at around 800 ballistic missiles. They include long-range systems which could one day strike South Korea and Japan. But even that rogue nation has never placed those weapons in firing position at points abutting the borders of South Korea and Japan.
Deeply ingrained collaboration with North Korea
And how would the strategic position of the 100,000 US troops fighting in Afghanistan be affected if the Pakistani government were to suddenly and covertly let Taliban have 800 Ghauri surface-to-surface missiles (similar to the Scud D) for firing at Kabul from its South and North Waziristan sanctuaries?
This scenario would sound absurdly unreal anywhere in the world – even in trouble spots. Yet, in the Middle East, it is a cruel reality.
The Scud concentration on the Syrian-Lebanese border came off Syrian military industry production lines, our military sources report. Their manufacture is based on North Korean technology, diagrams and licenses. They are in fact a Syrian adaptation of the North Korean Rodong-1 missile, whose 1,000-mile range brings Japan within firing distance.
This missile is essentially a hybrid: Its Isayev 9D21 engine was upgraded with the help of Russia's Makeyev OKB industries as well as China and Ukraine, while the new TEL uses an Italian Iveco truck chassis and an Austrian crane.
Pyongyang's Rodong program was itself largely financed by Iran in return for permission to reproduce it as the Shahab-3 ballistic missile.
Iranian-Syrian military collaboration with North Korea is thus deeply ingrained with Hizballah now brought into the equation for the first time.
Yet for reasons outlined in the next article, no Western power has hindered the coming together of these hugely destabilizing elements.