Iranian missile airlift stiffens Syrian war talk, tops up Hizballah, Hamas
debkafile Iranian and military sources report the war threats from Damascus this week were backed by massive Iranian airlifts for boosting Syria's missile arsenal. Fresh supplies also reached the Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas in Gaza. Wednesday, Feb. 3, Syrian president Bashar Assad accused Israel of seeking war, while his foreign minister Walid Moallem boasted: "You know that war at this time will come to your cities." They spoke after taking delivery of 100 new medium-range surface-to-surface missiles from Iran in January.
Moallem's threat was comprehensive: “….Syria calls on Israel to halt directing threats once against Gaza, another against South Lebanon, then Iran and now Syria.”
His message that all four extremist allies had formed a mutual defense pact against Israel raised temperatures to a dangerous level in the region. Syria will not stand by idly next time round if Israel goes to war against Iran's nuclear program or an aggressive Hizballah or Hamas, but go for Israel's cities.
This was public confirmation for the first time of debkafile's disclosure that on Dec. 17, Iranian defense minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi signed a secret military pact with his Syrian opposite number Gen. Ali Habib in Damascus, with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah appending his signature later.
Within days, Iran began shipping missile supplies by air to Damascus, Syria stepped up the pace of its smuggled rocket supplies to Hizballah in South Lebanon and both pumped hardware to Hamas by serpentine routes.
Syrian leaders used the visit to Damascus of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos as the stage for their heightened stridency. US Middle East envoy George Mitchell heard a similar harsh threatening tone against Israel when he called on Bashar Assad in Damascus on Jan. 20. Neither Washington nor Jerusalem were caught by surprise.
Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented nonchalantly that he does not understand what the Bashar Assad wants, confiding to his aides that his goal is to gain international goodwill before Israel decides to attack Iran. Next day, Feb. 4, hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was more outspoken: "Assad must be told bluntly," he said, "that in the next war, not only will Syria be beaten but he and his family will lose power. You will not remain in power, and neither will your family."
While his words were widely reported, the doves of the Labor party, the opposition Kadima and the left found his tone outrageous and called on the prime minister fire him.