debkafile Exclusive: Tehran secretly deploys air defense batteries around Damascus in wake of Israel’s Sept. 6 attack on Syrian nuclear reactor

At least half of these batteries, debkafile‘s Western military sources report, are manned by Iranian air defense crews which are rotated every few weeks with fresh teams flown in by aircraft painted as civilian flights.
Tehran is providing the Syrian capital with an air defense shield at a time when Washington is avidly bidding to win president Bashar Assad away from his alliance with Tehran. In return for sending a delegation to the international conference at Annapolis on Nov. 26, he is being offered an opening for talks with Israel toward recovering the Golan.
The Syrian president has lost no time in seizing the moment.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that foreign minister Walid Mualem will be sent to Cairo very shortly to lay before Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak his government’s conditions for taking part in the peace conference:
1. The Golan issue must be embodied in the Annapolis documents – even if it is not discussed.
2. Syrian representatives will not be part of the Arab League delegation – as secretary of state Condoleezza Rice originally worded the invitation. They will receive the status of an Arab nation in dispute with Israel and as equals of the Palestinian delegation.
Syria’s argument is that before breaking with Tehran, which contributes to the defense of its capital, it must be assured of unreserved collective Arab backing.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has been warned by his security advisers that Assad is using the new opportunity afforded him by the Bush administration for fence-mending with fellow Arab rulers who have snubbed him for months – without showing any sign of severing his military and political partnership with Iran.

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