U.S. Scrambled to Stop Israel-Syria Flare-up Over Scuds to Hezbollah

Wikileaks report: Despite continued intense diplomatic efforts, Syria did transfer the missiles to Hezbollah, which Netanyahu reported to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi when he met with them in Paris in May.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

American diplomatic cables released on the WikiLeaks site reveal diplomatic efforts to prevent a flare-up between Israel and Syria last February due to the movement of long-range Scud D missiles from Syria to Hezbollah.

The secret cables reveal that on November 16, the head of research in Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, met with Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

Baidatz told Vershbow that Iran was supplying Syria with advanced Fatah 110 missiles with a range of 250 kilometers that were to be moved to Lebanon. According to one cable, Baidatz said: "Under such a scenario, the looming question for Israeli policy makers then becomes: to strike or not to strike."

A few days later, the American Embassy in Damascus cabled the State Department, warning that the Syrians mistakely believed they would not be harmed in a future conflict with Hezbollah and recommending the issue be raised with President Assad.

On February 17, Under Secretary of State William Burns met with Assad in Damascus, warning him that the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah could spark a conflict with Israel. Assad denied any such transfer.

The next day, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, met with Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Miqdad. Unexpectedly, the head of Syria's intelligence service, General Ali Mamluk, also attended. Benjamin reiterated the warning, but the Syrians conditioned security cooperation on an improvement of relations with the United States.

Following the failure of the Damascus talks, Baidatz met with officials in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, to tell them that Syria intends to move long-range Scud D missiles to Hezbollah and asking the U.S. to make an urgent request of the Syrian government to stop the move. On February 25, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman asked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to tell the Syrians that the transfer of the missiles could "jeopardize regional prospects for peace and stability. Specifically, Syrian transfers of increasingly sophisticated weaponry risk renewed conflict between Israel and Hizballah that may expand, unlike in 2006, into Syria."

The deputy U.S. ambassador met with Miqdad a few hours later, reporting that Miqdad said the United States "has not come to a mature position [that would enable it] to differentiate between its own interests and Israel's," The Guardian reported. Miqdad also denied that weapons were being transfered to Hezbollah via Syria

Despite continued intense diplomatic efforts, Syria did transfer the missiles to Hezbollah, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reported to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi when he met with them in Paris in May. In an article in the New York Times yesterday, a senior Defense Department official was quoted as saying that Syria had coveyed some Scud D missiles to Hezbollah, mostly in a storage facility under Hezbollah control in Syria. All told, Hezbollah has some 50,000 rockets and missiles of various types, the official said.

Sudan accuses U.S.

Other cables revealed by WikiLeaks show that Sudan accused the United States of attacking weapons convoys in January and February 2009, in which 43 people were killed and 17 vehicles destroyed on February 20. "We assume that the planes that attacked us are your planes," a senior Sudanese official said, adding that Khartoum retained the right to respond. A month later, American, British and Egyptian media reported that Israel was behind the strikes. In the days following Operation Cast Lead, Israel and the United States began to implement the security understandings between them to prevent weapons smuggling from Iran to the Gaza Strip, reached on the last day of the operation.

In March, the Americans asked the Jordanians, the Egyptians and the Yemenites not to allow suspect planes to cross their air space on the way to Sudan, or to force them to land for inspection.

According to a cable from April 21, 2009, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, that Egypt had stopped most of the flow of money to Gaza from Iran and would not let Iran and Hezbollah operate in Egypt, and if they did, Egypt would operate in Iran.



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