The moment that US President George W. Bush decided to let the Lebanon war go ahead and allow Israeli to fight back struck just before he took off for the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg last Friday, July 14.
It was set off by an alarming piece of news.
The St. Petersburg summit was meant to focus on the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. But then, US intelligence chiefs informed him of their conviction that Syria had agreed to let Iran deploy Shehab-3 missiles on its soil in accordance with a secret clause of the mutual defense pact the Iranian and Syrian defense ministers Mostafa Najjar and Hassan Turkmani signed in Tehran on June 15.
The clause speaks of more than one battery of upgraded Shehab-3 surface-to-surface missiles to be deployed on the 13,000-foot Jabal Ash Shanin ridges towering over central Syria.
The latest Syrian-Iranian exchanges are reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources as auguring the early dispatch from Tehran of a deputation of officers to take up position at al Qadnus, east of the Syrian port of Tartus, and along the road linking the port to Jabal Ash Shanin.
This team will act as the vanguard of the Iranian missile force to operate the missiles station, will check out the ground and fix its precise location.
Senior intelligence officials warned the US president that this deployment would not just throw the entire Middle East balance of strength out of kilter, but directly menace American bases as far as West and East Europe and the Central Asian republics, including those located on the shores of the oil-rich Caspian Sea.
The special intelligence report to the US president disclosed that Moscow had prior knowledge of and approved Tehran’s intention of inserting the secret missile clause in the pact (as suggested first in DEBKA-Net–Weekly’s 258 of June 23: The Damascus-Tehran-Moscow Axis) and that the two acted in collusion on this.
Russian president Vladimir Putin was up to his neck in the deal. Some data also indicated that the Russians helped Tehran get the idea across to Bashar Assad by hinting that the future missile placement would fit in with their own deepening strategic plans for Syria.
Those ambitions are confirmed on the ground.
Our sources have observed the Russians dredging the port of Tartus, Syria’s second most important Mediterranean port, with a view to expanding their logistical supply point there to a fully-equipped naval base, possibly to serve the Black Sea Fleet warships when they are redeployed from the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol. It is designed to be built up into the permanent base for the fleet led by the RFS Moskva (TG Flag) missile cruiser and the RFS Azov landing ship within the next three years.
February 27, 2006, debkafile‘s exclusive sources found the Moskva and Azov heading into the Mediterranean on Feb. 5, escorted by a Russian military tug, to take part in the a NATO marine exercise Operation Active Endeavor, which was to practice counter-measures against nuclear and other WMD smugglers. NATO chiefs, and American generals in particular, attached great importance to Russia’s participation in the exercise. NATO secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer had intended to make the gesture of being the North Atlantic Organization chief to visit a Russian flagship.
The visit was cancelled when it was discovered that the three Russian fleet vessels would be paying an official call at the Syrian port of Latakia.
The arrival of the Russian task force in Tartus in March marked the opening of the Russian base. Our military experts note that Mosva is armed with the weapons, radar and electronic gear of a carrier hunter.
The American intelligence briefing for the US president further disclosed that sophisticated Russian air defense systems are to be installed for the dual purpose of protecting the Tartus naval base and the Shehab-3 missile emplacements.
Like the Patriot only better
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources identify the system as the S-300PMU-2. It will be operated by Russian military crews and not put in Syrian hands.
This air defense system is comparable to the American Patriot, but is more effective.
The version to be deployed in Syria is geared to intercept ballistic missiles. It has the great advantage of being ready to fire five minutes after receiving its orders.
Each battery has 48 or 36 missiles. They can be launched at 72 simultaneous targets at a distance of 200km, and a maximum altitude of 27 km. Within this radius its targeting performance is 0.9 – that is a 90 percent targeting rate.
The batteries will be accompanied by the 64N6 (NATO codenamed Tombstone) 3-D long-range surveillance radar provided with scan sector capability for detecting tactical ballistic missiles, aircraft and cruise missile-type targets at a range of up to 300km. They can also detect ballistic missiles with launching ranges of up to 1,000 km, using the same sector scan facility. The incoming data is relayed to a command post for processing and assessment. This radar is able to detect targets with speeds of up to 10,000 km.
Our Washington sources report that for George Bush, the cumulative effect of Iranian surface missiles projected for Syria, coordinated with and protected by Russian naval and air defense units, coupled with Tehran’s resounding rejection of the six-power incentives package for relinquishing uranium enrichment, and capped by Hizballah’s kidnap of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, were too much to endure.
The US president sensed that, if the final outrage of the Hizballah attack and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers had gone without response, the Russian-Iranian military presence in Syria, carried aloft by Hizballah, would have mushroomed to the point of toppling the entire edifice of US positions in the Middle East and Mediterranean.