Syrian and Iranian Generals in Intensive War Consultations
debkafile‘s intelligence and Middle East sources take a look at the actions behind the words issuing from Damascus officials affirming Syria’s willingness to go into peace talks with Israel.
During most of last week, two high-ranking Iranian delegations spent time in Damascus. One was composed of generals who held talks with Syrian leaders on coordinated preparations for a Middle East war in the coming months.
At the Iranian end, a similar high-ranking Syrian military delegation called in at Iranian army and Revolutionary Guards headquarters to tighten operational coordination between them at the command level, as well as inspecting the Iranian arsenal. The Syrian general staff will draw up a list of items it is short of for a possible military confrontation with Israel this summer.
Our sources report that last week, Tehran sent Moscow a check for $327 m to pay for assorted missiles consigned to Damascus. A further $438 m has been pledged by the end of June for more hardware to Syria.
Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s three days of talks in Damascus at the end of May further consolidated the strategic partnership between the two governments under the mutual defense pact they signed a year ago.
Their deliberations produced concurrence on the following issues:
1. Expanded economic cooperation, i.e. an enlarged Iranian aid package for Syria including monetary assistance and an extra 5 million tons of oil gratis per annum on top of the one million already guaranteed.
Syrian president Bashar Assad drove a hard bargain: He demanded a larger slice of economic aid as the price for entering into strategic cooperation with Iran for the coming war.
2. The Assad government agreed not to take any military – or other steps with military connotations – without prior notice to Tehran and its assent. This clause applies equally to activating the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas’ Damascus headquarters.
3. Reciprocal visits by Syrian and Iranian generals and political officials will be stepped up.
4. In Iraq, Iran and Syria agreed to jointly intensify their terrorist operations against US and British troops.
The regime heads in Tehran are basing their common front with Damascus on intelligence reports whereby the US and Israel have drawn up plans for coordinated military action against Iran, Syria and Hizballah in the summer.
According to this hypothesis, Iranian leaders foresee the next UN Security Council in New York at the end of June or early July ending with an American announcement that the sanctions against Tehran are inadequate because Russia and China has toned them down. Therefore, the military option is the only one left on the table. The ayatollahs have concluded that US president George W. Bush is determined to bow out of office on the high note of a glittering military success against Iran to eclipse his failures in Iraq.
They believe he will not risk the lives of more Americans by mounting a ground operation, but rather unleash a broad missile assault that will wipe out Iran’s nuclear facilities and seriously cripple its economic infrastructure.
According to the Iranian scenario, the timeline for hostilities has already been fixed between Washington and Jerusalem – and so has the plan of action. The US will strike Iran first, after which Israel will use the opportunity to go for Syria, targeting its air force, missile bases and deployments, as well as Hizballah’s missile and weapons stocks which Iran replenished this year.
Officials in Tehran and Damascus find confirmation of their intelligence evaluations in the visit Israel’s transport minister Shaul Mofaz paid to Washington last week at the head of a large military delegation. They are certain Mofaz, a former defense minister and chief of staff, used the strategic talks to tie the last ends of the planned offensive. They were perturbed in particular by the Israel minister’s reported advice to secretary of state Condoleezza Rice of the importance of setting a deadline, beyond which the US will abandon sanctions as ineffective and turn to its remaining options for dealing with Iran’s advance towards a nuclear weapons capability.
Considering the climate in Damascus and Tehran and their active pursuit of preparations for imminent attack, it is not surprising that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert received no reply to the note he sent to Assad proposing peace talks and offering the Golan as an incentive. Assad was not inclined to take the Israeli prime minister seriously. According to debkafile‘s sources in Jerusalem, Olmert did not really expect him to. The offer was more in the nature of clearing the decks ahead of Olmert’s White House visit later this month.