US Warns Syria Off its Ties with Terror Groups
Monday, May 6, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the Pentagon. On the same day, John Bolton, US undersecretary of state, disarmament expert and the closest official in that department to the White House, accused Libya,Syria and Cuba of pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The terms of this warning strongly resembled the language Washington uses in reference to Saddam Hussein. Bolton warned all three of American action to ensure they do not supply terrorists with such arms.
Regarding to Damascus, he said: “We are concerned about Syrian advances in its indigenous CW (chemical weapons) infrastructure (and believe Syria is) pursuing development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents.”
Shortly after the US issued its warning, the Hizballah fired 27 anti-air missiles from its bases in Lebanon over Western Galilee in northern Israel. Debris scattered over Shlomi and other villages in the area.
Israeli military spokesmen made haste to state that no Israeli air force planes were flying over the Israel-Lebanese frontier at the time of the Hizballah attack.
debkafile‘s Washington sources report thatBolton’s warning to Damascus did not come out of the blue. It was prompted by US concern over the latest Syrian military movements in Lebanon and at home and its reciprocal ties with the Lebanese Hizballah terror group.
According to debkafile‘s military sources, the Syrian army has suddenly taken up defensive positions in four main areas: the Beqaa valley, Baalbek, the Beirut-Damascus highway and the Israeli-Syrian border in the northern Golan Heights, near Mount Hermon and Shebaa Farms.
Our military sources report a full combat alert last week for Syria’s 1st armored corps in the Damascus area and the 2nd corps in western Syria and Lebanon.
The 10th mechanized division and elements of the 51st armored division, stationed until last winter in Beirut, have relocated from western and central Lebanon to the BeqaaValley on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. Some have taken up defensive positions along the Beirut-Damascus highway.
The 1st corps commands the defenses of Damascus and the Syrian-Israeli border on the Golan Heights.
The 2nd corps secures Syria’s eastern frontier and the Syrian expeditionary force in Lebanon
The 27th and 82nd armored brigades of the 3rd division, and the 87th armored brigade of the 11th division are on the ground in Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, a Hizballah political and logistic stronghold.
Syria’s elite 14th division, comprised of special forces, has moved east, fetching up at the meeting-point of the Syrian, Lebanese and Israeli borders in the northern Golan Heights, north of Shebaa Farms.
Damascus ordered these military steps after asking Iran to send new shipments of Fajar-5 surface-to-surface missiles to Hizballah units in southern Lebanon. The missiles have a range of more than 50 km (30 miles) and can hit the Israeli port city of Haifa.
The Americans are concerned lest the Syrians equip those missiles with chemical warheads – hence Bolton’s sharp warning to Damascus and its timing to coincide with the Israeli prime minister’s talks with defense secretary Rumsfeld in Washington.
debkafile‘s sources add the intelligence reaching Washington last month, according to which Iran began shipping the new missiles only after asking Syria first if the Hizballah positions would be allowed to fire them. Syria assured the Iranians they would; indeed they could shoot the missiles throughout the month of May.
Receipt of that intelligence data sent US secretary of state Colin Powell rushing over to Damascus in the middle of his Israel-Palestinian crisis mission. He sternly cautioned Bashar Assad that Israel would hit vital Syrian military assets if the Fajar missiles took to the air. Assad did not react.
But the Hizballah response Monday, May 6, to Bolton’s warning was a reminder to the US, Israel and Syria too that, armed with the new Iranian Fajar missiles, the Hizballah is a force to be reckoned with.