Three groups of air defense and early warning systems experts are hard at work in Damascus. Syrian president Bashar Assad has ordered them to find out why Syria’s two early warning stations for protecting its skies against air and missile intrusion failed to detect or identify an Israeli air force raid on Sept. 6.
The Syrian group was handpicked by a very worried president. It is assisted by Russian experts, who are anxious to find out what caused the failure of the electronic systems and the radar of the Pantsyr S1-E air defense missile batteries purchased from Moscow.
A third group is made up of Iranian air force and missile corps officers who badly need to know what went wrong with the Russian early warning systems installed in both Iran and Syria.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that the Syrian early warning station, positioned at Marj as Sulta, 15 km east of Damascus and north of the Syrian air base at the international airport, is there to secure the Syrian capital and monitor Israeli air or missile activity on the Golan and from northern Israel.
The Shinshar station south of Homs, near the small Syrian air base of Al Qusayr Shayrat, is located opposite northern Lebanon. Its function is to sound the alarm if airplanes, missiles or warships approach Syria from Lebanese territory of from the eastern Mediterranean.
When the early warning stations in Syria were silenced, some communications systems, computers and cell phones were also knocked out in neighboring Lebanon – evidence that Syria had been bested in a cyber war against its electronic and radar systems.
Syrian war planners were blinded and left groping for answers to several questions:
1. From which did direction did the warplanes enter Syria airspace – the Mediterranean, Israel or Turkey?
2. Were the trespassers Israeli or American air force jets – or both? Damascus suspects they operated under an air umbrella provided by American aircraft flying in from Iraq or a US carrier in the Mediterranean.
The Turks refuse to cooperate with Damascus
3. The removal of markings from the ammunition and disposal fuel tanks dropped on both sides of the Syrian-Turkish border has left the Syrians uncertain about the identity of the planes which attacked them. All they could deduce was that meticulously planning must have gone into the attack for these telltale traces to have been removed.
4. Turkey sharply dismissed Syrian appeals for cooperation in getting some of these mysteries solved. On Sept. 13, Assad sent his foreign minister Walid Mualam to Ankara with this request. He found that the Americans and Israelis had got there first, posting high-ranking military delegations in the Turkish capital from the beginning of the week.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘ was able to extract very little about this from a very high-placed Turkish military source, who would only say: “We saw what they showed us and those images and explanations convinced us to continue to stay mum.”
Our intelligence sources assume that the Americans and Israelis showed Turkish officials the satellite images of the targeted Syrian facility, convincing them that it posed a danger to Turkey as well.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, the three groups looking for answers in Damascus have made little if any progress in cracking the mystery, because two weeks after the initial attack, the United States-Israeli cyber war tactics against Syria are still going strong. Unknown forces, which none of those groups have been able to trace or identify, continue to jam Syria’s electronic networks, including air force computers, radar and early warning stations, with only very brief occasional letups.
The waves were powerful enough to disrupt Israeli satellite television broadcasts this week. Commercial firms complained and ran a notice to viewers that the cause of the trouble was being investigated with the assistance of defense specialists.
Western military experts comment that never before has a military cyber war been conducted at this level and for this length of time.
Our military sources account for its duration by two considerations:
One: To deter President Assad from any attempt at reprisal against Israeli or American targets in the Middle East. He is given to understand that hostile cyber activity against Syria can be intensified still further, blacking out all of Syria’s strategic and military facilities and endangering his regime.
Two: The electronic warfare systems employed against Syria proved to have a small loophole. While jamming the larger early warning and radar systems, a small Syrian electronic station managed to detect the Israeli air raid over northern Syria and alert the president and military command to the intrusion.
While Syrian, Russian and Iranian experts delve into the mysterious immobilization of Syria’s main systems, the Americans and Israelis are curious to find out more about the small gap in their cyber offensive.