Nuclear Fist-Shaking in S. Asia and Mid East

On Wednesday, June 12, out of the blue, the Iraqi foreign ministry issued a far from routine communique: It vilified Israel’s launch of a new spy satellite (Ofek-5 on May 28) as posing a “threat to Arab national security as a whole…providing additional evidence” of Israel’s “hostile and aggressive intentions towards Arab states” and exposing its quest to expand its “alien” presence and spread its hegemony over the region. Arab states were urged to “take all necessary measures to face and contain the repercussions” of the missile launch.
After running the Iraqi communique, Space Daily noted that India and Turkey are among the potential customers of the Ofek-5 satellite intelligence data.
The next day, June 13, the foreign ministry in Baghdad was busy again. A note was sent off to the UN secretary accusing the United States of being on the point of a nuclear attack on Iraq. Israel was charged merely with possession of nuclear weapons – not the intention to use them, although the Baghdad message pointed out that Israel had bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor exactly 19 years ago.
The implication is clear: The Israeli space satellite was placed in orbit in advance of the projected American attack on Iraq. It was there also to service the Turkish armed forces taking part in that assault, as well as assisting India in its coming conflict with Pakistan.
Another vital piece in this menacing mosaic appeared first in debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weeklyas early as September 7, 2001, a report that Israel had been commissioned by India to set up an electronic fence in Kashmir with six main electronic early warning stations based on the Israeli-made Green Pine radar system.
These disclosures portend the two major conflicts expected to be fought this year being the most extensively electronics-based wars in military history. Both the US campaign against Iraq and the Indian-Pakistani conflict will unveil missile and surveillance systems never seen before.
A strong nuclear dimension also appears unavoidable.
On Saturday, June 15, the Washington Post reported Israel had armed three diesel submarines with newly-designed cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
On May 11, 2001, thirteen months ago, DEBKA-Net-Weekly, Issue No. 12,revealed:
India’s nuclear collaboration plan hinges on the three Israeli 1,925-ton 800-class German-made Dolphin-class submarines, which are armed with Israel-designed 1,500-km range Popeye Turbo cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This flotilla is sought as a second strike capability for the Indian air force and naval units present in the Arabian Sea opposite Pakistan. Israel maintains one or sometimes two of those submarines permanently in Persian Gulf waters as a sea-launched deterrent force – its second-tier, first strike capability, against Iran and Iraq.
This month, on June 7, 2002, DEBKA-Net-Weeklyagain reported that Israeli Dolphin-class submarines, like other naval and air units, were permanently using the big air and naval base on Eritrea’s Red Sea Dahlak Archipelago, near the confluence of the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
All of a sudden, for some weeks now, the United States, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and Iraq have become exceptionally outspoken about war preparations. With uncharacteristic openness, they have burst into speech on the use of use of nuclear weapons.
The announcement in Washington on Friday, June 14, of the expulsion of the first secretary at the Iraqi UN mission, Abdul Rahman Saad, for espionage, was another element in the rhetorical escalation.
All in all, the war of words sounds as though it is nearing the point of spilling over into deeds.
Most governments have three possible reasons for giving publicity to the types of weaponry in the hands of adversaries:
1. They are just about ready to make their first military move – in the case of Iran and Iraq, their military preparations would also entail a mega-terror attack, for which they need to soften up world opinion in advance.
2. As a hands-off signal from the potential victim’s intelligence service to the would-be aggressor that “all is known” and reprisals are store if he goes ahead.
3. When signs of popular unrest or military disaffection against the leadership of the enemy’s camp are detected. Certain revelations may have the power to whip up outright domestic opposition to the enemy government.
In this context, Baghdad, conscious that the United States is on the threshold of a decisive military move, published its intelligence estimate that America plans a nuclear attack. The Iraqis have no certain knowledge of the form the American strike will take, whether nuclear bombs or only tactical devices, but it hopes exposure of this intent will put the Americans off whatever they plan.
India and Pakistan may have crossed the point of no return in their war plans. It is now evident that the visits paid by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week to New Delhi and Islamabad did little more than postpone the eruption for which both nuclear nations have set their faces.
In the Middle East, a military clash between Israel on one side and Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah is very much in the cards. Since Damascus and Baghdad are bound by mutual defense treaties, the Hizballah is militarily affiliated to Teheran and Damascus – and all these parties are in close military and political alliance with the Palestinians – an Israel-Syrian border confrontation could quickly light the fire of war under the entire region. The belligerents in this case would proliferate to encompass the United States, possibly Britain, as well as Israel, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the Hizballah and the Palestinians.
India and Pakistan are fully engaged in this war of words. It cannot be ruled out therefore that a Middle East war will be accompanied by a war on the subcontinent. debkafile‘s military experts estimate that September is the next likely date for these chain-reaction conflicts to erupt into full-scale belligerence.
The nuclear dimension of the India-Pakistan conflict is self-evident.
debkafile‘s military sources on the Indian subcontinent report that behind the smiling, relaxed welcome the Pentagon leaders received from Indian and Pakistan leaders, they were shocked to find both smoothly discussing nuclear combat and the death of many millions in this war – their estimate is as high as 10-15 million – as inevitable and acceptable. India’s military chiefs and its Kashmir commanders are described as clamoring for the Vajpayee to go to war without delay. Intelligence reports from the field indicate that India’s front-line troops, including air force and naval units, are tired of waiting for the government in New Delhi to give the signal and growing restive.
There are similar pressures in Pakistan. In Islamabad, high Pakistan officers told Rumsfeld that if India attacks, Washington had better be prepared for Pakistan to rally Muslims from all over Asia in a holy jihad against India. Having invested so much in an Islamic nuclear bomb, Pakistan would “lose face” if it was not used.
An India-Pakistan war game played a few weeks ago at the US Naval War College charted this scenario:
An al Qaeda terror attack triggers an Indian-Pakistani war. India invades Pakistan; Pakistan, whose army is half the size of India’s, falls back, firing off 3-4 nuclear missiles to cover its retreat and stop the Indian advance; India retaliates with 10-12 nuclear missiles.
Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon is just as incendiary.
Week after week, President Bashar Assad has been building up the military tension since early April. debkafile‘s military sources report that Syria and the Hizballah have in those two months set up a missile wall along their border with Israel, made up of thousands of projectiles capable of pounding all of northern Israel and parts of its central heartland. Israel has held back from firing a single shot to interfere with this buildup out of a misconceived tactical reluctance to open a second front while its military hands are full keeping Palestinian terrorists from attack Israeli civilians. Encouraged by Israel’s passivity, the Syrian leader in early June ordered his army chiefs to extend its missile line along the Syrian-Lebanese frontier, including also the Syrian-Israel dividing line cutting through the Golan Heights. Part of this new array forms a defensive loop around the strategic Lebanese Beqaa valley, where the most important cluster of Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah bases is situated. For Syria, the Lebanese Beqaa is its main line of defense against an assault on Damascus from the west.
A number of Israeli security and military chiefs disclosed last week that Israel was on the point of a strike against Syria in late April but pulled back at the eleventh hour. Their tone was one of frustration. Since late April, Syria has not let the grass grow under its feet. A military strike now would have to contend not just with one line of missiles but two, a far costlier operation in military and civilian casualties than it would have been six weeks ago.
The conviction is gaining among Israel’s military strategists that, as the American campaign against Baghdad draws near, it will be harder to disentangle the Iraqi front from the Syrian-Palestinian arena, with possible Iranian involvement. This means that the delayed attack against Syria will force Israel to fight on three or four fronts – not just two, against Iraq and Iran as well, both of whom are possessed of limited nuclear capabilities.
Under the shadow of these darkening clouds, the global war on terror declared by US President George W. Bush is fast losing its focal edge.

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