Intelligence Report -- March 26, 1997

SYRIA'S MILITARY TIES WITH IRAN

By Aaron Lerner

SYRIA INCREASES MILITARY TIES WITH IRAN

25 Iranian fighter jets are deployed in Damascus;

Iran will finance Syria's arms purchases from Russia;

Iran expected to provide Syria with 50 SCUD C missiles.

American, Western and Arab intelligence reports say that the visit of the Iranian minister of defense to Syria centered on a discussion of Syria's military needs for defense against a surprise Israeli attack.

In the course of the talks the following topics were covered:

1. The possibility of providing Syria with 50 SCUD C missiles which have a longer range than the SCUD B missiles which Iraq launched against Israel during the Gulf War.

2. Transfer of 50 Iranian fighter jets to Syria of which 25 are old American models which have been overhauled by Chinese and Russian experts and the rest are MIG25 and MIG29.

3. Deployment of 15 SAM missile batteries.

4. Syrian use of a ground control network which Iran received from Russia and North Korea in 1994.

5. The possibility of setting up an air lift between Syrian and Iranian airfields for transferring equipment and soldiers from Iran to Lebanon in case the Syrian army has to withdraw as a result of an Israeli attack.

6. Leasing 6 Iranian battleships to Syria.

7. Financing Syrian arms deals by clearing Syrian debt to Russia from USSR period arms purchases. The financing would be carried out by the supply of $1 billion worth of Iranian petroleum and consumer goods to Russia. In return, Russia is said to agree to supply Syria with modern weapons in exchange for hard currency.

8. Iran will act as mediator with the Turkish government and will convince Turkey not to attack Syria along with an Israeli attack against Syria.

9. Iran will secretly purchase weapons from North Korea, Kazakhstan, China, South Africa and Russia and transfer them to Syria.

The Western report does not relate to the extent of actual Iranian interest in the above items.

American intelligence reports say that Iran has transferred to Russia $500 million in cash in return for Russian willingness to erase the Syrian debt. Likewise, Iran signed a commercial agreement and agreements to supply petroleum with Russia with the goal being the canceling of the Syrian debt.

It is the opinion of American intelligence that the readiness of Iran to take a part in the clearing of Syria's debt to Russia convinced Syria to transfer $650 million to Russia immediately. Likewise, Iran will be prepared to pay Russia a billion dollars in 1998 and in exchange Syria will sign an arms deal with the Russian delegation, during the course of its visit to Damascus, in the amount of $2.5 billion.

German intelligence reported several days ago that the Iranians began to transfer ground and air control equipment to Syria in the start of March 1997. The equipment was transported in 10 shipments which also included SAM missiles. In addition, German intelligence reports the arrival of 25 Iranian fighter jets in December 1996 which are now parked in three military airfields around Damascus.

("Al-Siyassa" - 16 March, 1997)

[Kuwaiti paper with close government ties]

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Dr. Aaron Lerner is Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)


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