Posted by Alex on Wednesday, July 25th, 2007
Posted by Alex,
The London based Saudi owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat published a report by Ali Nouri Zadeh in which it claimed that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered to assist Syria in conducting nuclear research during his visit to Damascus earlier this month. The story also listed a number of decisions taken during the same visit, all of which indicated a shift towards a more confrontational policy on the part of Syria and Iran; In addition to nuclear research there was development of biological weapons, Iranian financed purchase of a billion dollars' worth of Mig31 and SU24 advanced Russian fighters and 400 of the 1971 model T-72 Tanks! (not T-90?).
In exchange for Iran's generous offer, President Assad supposedly promised his Iranian counterpart to stop seeking a peaceful settlement with Israel.
The Asharq al-Awsat report found its way to the front pages of many newspapers worldwide. Arab affairs correspondent Yoav Stern reported in Haaretz that
(Israeli) Minister of Strategic Threats Avigdor Lieberman on Saturday called for the establishment of an emergency national unity government in light of the strategic threat posed by the tightening ties between Syria and Iran.
The Likud party, Netanyahu, did not embrace Lieberman's call for an emergency unity government.
"The Likud's stance hasn't changed. We are working toward holding early elections," a party statement said.
However, it appears that Kadima, the party headed by Olmert, is ready to consider joining the opposition in a national unity government.
Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said "the continued oppositional and adventurous policies of the 'axis of evil' states, requires strategic thinking among central Israeli powers." He added that there are similarities between Israel's current situation in the face of Iran, and the situation Israel faced 40 years ago on the eve of the Six-Day War, and back then an emergency government was established. He said that then, like today, a fundamentalist yet inexperienced regime was developing in Arab nations, and it could result in confrontation.
Haaretz analyst Zvi Bar'el called for a cautious analysis of the Asharq Al-Awsat story
First, the figures: in order to procure the weapons and equipment mentioned in the report, especially the MiG-31E fighters and the 400 T-72 tanks, Syria needs four or five times the sum that it is allegedly receiving from Iran. Syria still owes Russia $3.6 billion (even after Russia wiped out 70 percent of Syria's debt for 2005). So, where will Syria find $4 billion to fund the rest of the deal? There is no answer to this conundrum.
Later, an Israeli official denied the content of that story. Iran denied it as well.
Finally, today I received an email from Yoav Stern that he received from the editor of a "Syrian opposition" site called syriatruth.org. The editor was asking Yoav to read an online story that Syriatruth reported 8 months ago (Dec 2006). Apparently the story reported in Asharq al-Awsat this week is almost identical to the original story in Syriatruth.org.
Now, it might be useful to take another look (above) at the reactions of the many alarmed Israeli politicians who promptly accepted this fascinating story without questioning the reliability of the sources.