WikiLeaks: US warned Syria against giving Hizbullah scuds

"The transfer of such weapons would constitute a significant escalation of a potentially volatile situation,” the cable read.

By
December 8, 2010 02:17
4 minute read.
Scud D launcher

Scud D launcher. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The US caught Syria lying about supplying Hizbullah with ballistic missiles earlier this year, and both protested forcefully to Damascus and turned to a number of other countries to make their concerns known, according to a US cable released late Monday by WikiLeaks.

A cable sent from Washington to the US embassy in Damascus on February 25, written by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, directed the embassy to file a demarche, or diplomatic protest, with Syria regarding the transfer of ballistic missiles to Hizbullah.

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According to that dispatch, Syria transferred advanced surface-to-surface and surface- to-air missiles to Hizbullah, something that could draw Syria into a future war between Israel and Hizbullah, and has “probably provided training on these systems to Hizbullah personnel.”

An earlier cable, from November 19, 2009, noted that Syria’s “determined support” of Hizbullah’s military buildup could change the Middle East regional balance and create a scenario much more destructive than what was seen in the Second Lebanon War.

The cable, written by Charles Hunter, the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Damascus on November 19, 2009, said that Syria has provided Hizbullah with a “steady supply of longer-range rockets and the introduction of guided missiles.”

Although in a future conflict, if rockets would rain down on Tel Aviv – as they did on the north during the Second Lebanon War – Israel would have “powerful incentives” to keep Syria out of the conflict, it might “also face compelling reasons for targeting Hizbullah facilities in Syria, some of which are in and around populated areas.”

According to the dispatch, Syria’s “current strategic mindset appears to assume Syria could avoid involvement in a new conflict, based largely on its 2006 experience. Syrian leaders also appear convinced that arming Hizbullah will increase Syria’s leverage in bringing Israel to the negotiating table.”

The cable discussed the massive rearmament of Hizbullah since the Second Lebanon War, and said that public estimates put Hizbullah’s stockpiles as high as “40,000 rockets and missiles.”

“There is overwhelming evidence,” the cable read, “that shows Syria provided not just logistical and other support in moving the weapons, but was the main source of the weapons. Syria’s integration of Hizbullah into its military doctrine, moreover, means that Hizbullah operatives and facilities enjoy a growing footprint in Syria.”

Despite this, the cable read, Syrian officials – including President Bashar Assad – emphasize their political link to Hizbullah and flatly deny that Syria is arming the group. Assad, according to the dispatch, suggested that the challenge of disarming Hizbullah would be solved after Syria and Israel signed a peace treaty.

Syria, according to the cable, also hopes that its improved relations with Turkey, France and Saudi Arabia would preclude an Israeli attack on Syria in case of another conflagration in the North because of the hope that those countries would object.


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