22 February 2007

Syrian weapons purchases: the unbarked dog

An interesting thing happens when Syria purchases some weapons: people start to say Syria is 'arming up' against Israel. Well it is purchasing arms, but for what requires a bit of a look. So lets get some details from that UPI story:

Claim: Syria-Russia missle deal close

TEL AVIV, Israel, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Syria could soon receive thousands of advanced anti-tank missiles from Russia that could find their way into the hands of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Ha'aretz, which did not disclose it's sources, said Thursday the new sale of Kornet AT-14 and Metis AT-13 missiles was close to completion despite Israeli diplomatic efforts to get Moscow to abandon it.

The Kornet AT-14 is a semi-automatic, command-to-line-of site missile system capable of destroying armored vehicles equipped with protective plating, including those with explosive reactive armor. It is also effective against fortifications and entrenched troops. Mounted on a small tripod, the missile is considered accurate when fired from as far away as 3 miles.

Evidence that Hezbollah was in possession of the weapons was found during last summer's war in southern Lebanon. Crates of the missiles, with shipping documents showing they were procured from Russia by Syria, were found near the Saluki River, where Hezbollah delayed an Israeli armored column with missile fire.

The report said the evidence was presented by Israeli diplomats to the Russians, who purportedly promised to re-evaluate some of its arms deals with Syria.
Those are not what I would call 'arming up' so much as 'replacing spent ammo'. This comes a few days after the 17 FEB 2007 announcement from Syria captured at the Israel Hasbara Committee news excerpts on 19 FEB 2007:
2. Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged Saturday, 17 Feb, to form a joint alliance against what they deem to be US and Israeli conspiracies against the Islamic world. Both leaders claim the US has made false accusations against Syria and Iran because of its failures in Iraq. The two countries are leading supporters of terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and have long been close allies. During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, Syria was the only Arab country to support Iran. During the past decade, Iranian companies have invested more than $700 million in Syria. (Sources-Haaretz/IHC)
Now it may be just a bit on the belligerent side to actually announce an alliance against the US and Israel. As for those US 'failures' just who is it that is supplying the insurgents, by and large? Yes, these two Nations, so excuse that bit on the 'failure' front as neither wants the US to succeed for their own reasons.

Just a quick side trip to another news excerpt from Israel Hasbara Committee, is this from 18 FEB 2007:
4. An al-Qaida terrorist faction, late last week, posted an article on the Internet urging Islamic militants to attack oil facilities worldwide, including those in Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. The stated purpose is to stop the flow of oil to the U.S. Al-Qaida said in its monthly magazine that cutting oil supplies to the U.S. would help end the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The article reasoned that America might curb its dependence on Middle East oil by turning to Canada or other suppliers and therefore, oil interests in all regions that serve the US should be attacked. Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he takes the threat very seriously. (Sources: Associated Press/IHC)
Which is interesting in that al Qaeda is putting out the 'help wanted' sign in its operations because their long-range types of attacks take so long that they can't use the people they have for them to do other things.

Back to the unbarked!

Syria has also announced a smaller deal for some trucks from Russia, via Automotiveworld:
Russia: Ural exports 221 trucks to Syria
By Zoran Samardzic
20 February, 2007
Source: Automotive World

Russian heavy truck manufacturer Ural, which operates within the GAZ group, has delivered 221 Ural-4320 (6x6) vehicles to Syria. The trucks, which will be operating under adverse climate and road conditions, are powered by diesel engines manufactured...
All they offer is excerpts for free, but that is a help as the meat was put up front. Say, did you notice that the Russian Foreign Minister announced there is no deadline for Kosovo talks? I am sure that someday everything President Clinton wanted to happen there will happen in the way of peace and prosperity and good relations with its neighbors... be that as it may, the RIAN news excerpting folks have this from Gazeta on 19 FEB 2007:
Russia to sell weapons, air-defense systems in the Middle East

Most of the weapons and air-defense systems Moscow sells are exported to the Middle East, Southwest Asia and North Africa, accounting for about one-third of the $50 billion global arms market, according to the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
Army weaponry and air-defense systems sales make up $5 billion of the grand total.
On Sunday, the Seventh International Arms Fair IDEX-2007 opened in Abu Dhabi. Forty-three Russian enterprises controlled by Rosoboronexport, the main national arms exporter, are attending the fair, where they face stiff competition from companies representing 50 other countries.
The Arab world is traditionally interested in Russian light armored vehicles, air-defense systems and specialized weapons, said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. Last year, air-defense systems accounted for 21.6% of Russian arms sales.
The center's experts analyzed open-source data and said Russian arms exports totaled $3.86 billion in 2006.
In late 2006, Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, estimated projected arms sales at $6 billion.
If Dmitriyev is right, then air-defense systems will account for over $1.2 billion of 2006 arms sales.
Iran has already paid $780 million for Tor-M1 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).
Syria and Morocco have reportedly bought six short-range Tunguska SAM/gun systems worth $100 million each. Moreover, Egypt and Iran have paid Russia to upgrade their Kvadrat and Pechora SAMs.
Moscow would like the Arab world to operate Russian-made air-defense systems.
Most importantly, Russia must enter the Saudi Arabian arms market, which has traditionally been dominated by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, said Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
A great deal depends on the customers' political sympathies rather than the quality of Russian weapons and their attractive prices.
Global arms markets, primarily Arab markets, are politicized, he told the paper.
The integrated Tor-M1 to Iran was known previously, but here we get a bit more of what is working its way to Syria in the way of air defense systems. Actually, Syria does have a problem, and it isn't ammo, but lack of having a real military. They do *have* an army and air force and ship or three, but these are not what we would call 'modern'. Syria has done no serious investing in things like tanks and aircraft for at least a decade with only a minor tank upgrade since then. This makes the following off the UPI newswire a bit puzzling, from 22 FEB 2007:
Syria denies moving troops toward Israel

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Syria denied a published report that it is building up its troops along the Israeli border.

Israeli Radio reported that Syrian Parliament member Mohammed Habash told Al Arabiya television that the country has not changed its troops along the border, denying a report from the Haaretz news service.

"Syria is fully prepared for any situation (that may develop)," Habash also said on Al Arabiya. He said that should "Israel decide to do something stupid, it would pay a heavy price."

Asked about reports that Iran is funding Syria's military, Habash said on Al Arabiya, "Cooperation between Damascus and Tehran is no secret, as both are being faced with a direct threat," Haaratz reported.

Haartez said that Syria has been beefing up its military in Syria and that appears to have moved troops closer to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.
I don't doubt that Syria *is* moving troops to the border, but that is like saying they are moving a group of convicts to the border to do ditch digging: they are both about the same effectiveness as a military force. So even with vehement denials, there is one major problem that Syria has, and that is that its armed forces are so decrepit that the only way they can advance against Israel is by using WMDs. I went over that in a previous article so the fact that Syria does not have the cold, hard cash to layout for *new* tanks and aircraft points to their ineffectiveness. Buying neat toys doesn't help if your army is running from battle. They only way they will go forward, is if there is no one firing at them. It is possible for them to sit and fight, but notice that it is very much on the 'sit' side and not so much on the 'fight' side. That comes from having the lowest morale army in the Middle East: you can bluster, but your ability to threaten with them is limited.

Finally a bit more of the same, this from albawaba in Jordan, which I think is cadging from other sources:
The Syrian armed forces have been strengthened in an "unprecedented way" with the help of Iran and its troops appear to be moving closer to the border with Israel, the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported in its headline on Thursday. The Syrians are bolstering their forces in all areas except the air force, it added.

The report which is based on the Israeli intelligence, said the Syrian navy, after years of neglect, is also being reinforced with an Iranian version of a Chinese anti-ship missile. In addition to the overall strengthening of the armed forces in Syria, there has been a redeployment of forces along the front lines. The Syrians have moved forces closer to the border with Israel in the Golan Heights, the newspaper said.

Syria's rebuilding of its military strength has also included test launches of ballistic missiles. Lately, the Syrians test-fired a Scud-D surface-to-surface missile. The Scud-D has a 400-kilometer range and covers most of the territory of Israel.

It should be noted that Israel's Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday paid a visit to the Paratrooper Brigade, which was participating in a large-scale exercise on the Golan Heights. The exercise involved a scenario in which there was a confrontation with Syria. "We are ready for any eventuality. Not necessarily on the part of the Syrians," Ashkenazi said.
Reinforcing its navy! With new ships? No... just anti-ship missiles that can be fired from ground platforms. The Syrian AF is junk, pure and simple and hasn't contested anything near it for years because it *can't*. So, what are these wonderful supplies that the Syrians have purchased?

Kornet AT-14 - These have proven to be effective against Israeli armored vehicles, and so Hezbollah looks to be the ones getting these as they fired so many last summer.

Metis AT-13 - Good against ground and hovering rotary wing aircraft. Quite some number of these were also used by Hezbollah last summer so call this a restock, also.

221 GAZ Ural-4320 (6x6) Trucks - Yes! New trucks to transport men and equipment around. Now as to those ancient tanks... I mean nearly half of the Syrian tank corps is the old T-54/55 series and no matter how much you upgrade them, they are still obsolete. And the entire lot is obsolete due to the US sensor fuzed weapon CBU-97. I would not be surprised to find Israel having gotten a few of those from the US, along with some of its larger JDAM purchases.

6 Tunguska SAM/gun systems - For point defense and short area defense, mostly. Have to protect those troops on the border with *something*.

C-802a anti-ship missiles as demonstrated in the last dust-up in Lebanon where Hezbollah hit an Israeli warship and sunk a civilian, neutral transport vessel.

The worst of course is the stuff that Syria makes on its lonesome, and that is the SCUD-D which is a variant on the SCUD-B/C class of missiles. To get caught up you can hit my WMD basic list for Syria, and get an idea of their distributed production and storage concepts for those and for WMDs in general.

Mostly this is all re-supply for Hezbollah, as Iran has made quite clear that the C-802a's are for them and *not* Syria in the past. Syria is doing the tactical re-supply portion for the anti-armor weapons, and doing a minor plus-up on its military transport and point air defense systems. This is no major change, just a recognition that Hezbollah is getting resupplied.

The unbarked dog is, of course, Syria, getting away scot-free in being the 'middleman' for Iran in all of this. They get their cut on the deals, needless to say, which keeps Asad doing well in his continued production and refining of phosphorus to multiple WMD types.

No one wants to point that out, because to do so would point out nearly four decades of failed diplomacy there. Because the regime does not want diplomacy and is willing to play anyone the fool that comes to them to try and do so.

They want power and WMDs look to be the best way to get it. That and terrorists.

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