MID-EAST REALITIES © - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 9/05: Ariel Sharon in Moscow had to call off his visit to the Duma as well as with Patriarch Alexei II today, reasons not spelled out but not that hard to contemplate. Meanwhile Sharon apparently sent a last minute order back home calling off this afternoon's Army Press Conference to formally announced the "military closure" of areas along the now somewhat mythical "Green Line." It's a chaotic situation twirling at lightning speed both in the region and internationally. All the more so with Israel's Labor Party now split in half after last night's vote, the leadership contest between Eliezer and Burg now heading to the courts with all kinds of charges of vote-rigging and illegalities in the air.
Sharon's main reason for visiting Russia at this time is not public relations nor further propagandizing Russian Jews to emigrate to "the promised land". The Middle East is in a pre-war state of affairs and the arms race is still expanding and accelerating. The Iranians desperately want the latest Russian arms -- especially anti-air and anti-missile batteries anticipating some kind of Israeli cum American attempt to take out their major "weapons of mass destruction" programs. Everywhere there is growing tenseness, growing anxiety, growing preparations for still more violent and bloody days ahead.
Iran is said to be seeking the S-300 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system to protect its planned nuclear sites. Russian industry sources said the S-300 will be a leading topic of discussion during this week's visit by Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani to Moscow. Shamkhani is expected in Moscow on Sept. 5. He is expected to discuss a range of weapons including the purchase of the MiG-29 fighter and mid- and long-range air defense systems, among them, the S-300. The sources said Iran wants to deploy an S-300 system near its nuclear reactor under construction in Bushehr. The reactor is being constructed by Russian companies, and Israel and the United States have asserted that the project could be a cover for Teheran's nuclear weapons program. As a result, Iran fears an air strike against Bushehr similar to the Israeli air attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. The S-300 has been touted as superior to the U.S. Patriot anti-missile system. Russian sources said Moscow is under pressure from the United States not to sell the S-300 to Iran. The sources said Russia will offer short- and medium-range air defense systems as well as weapons upgrades. Shamkhani was scheduled to have arrived in Moscow on Sept. 3. But Iranian officials said the minister's visit was delayed until after the departure of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon arrived on late Sept. 3 in Moscow for a three-day visit. Sharon is expected to raise Moscow's help to Iran during his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Israeli officials assert that Russia has been providing key systems for Iran's nuclear weapons programs. The result is that Teheran could develop such weapons by 2005. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Umyantsev said nuclear cooperation with Teheran is expanding. He said a second major delivery of nuclear equipment will soon arrive in Teheran. "Hopefully the nuclear energy cooperation between the countries will continue under the reign of the next Iranian ambassador to Moscow," Umyantsev said. In Teheran, Iran has called for an expansion of trade and cooperation with the European Union. This includes security cooperation that would combat drug trafficking and terrorism. The two sides met on Sept. 3 for their semi-annual meeting.
Syrian President Bashar Assad might have been caught with his pants down in Israeli air raids in June. But he vows not to get caught again. Assad has been steadily improving Syria's military presence in Lebanon as well as bolstering his forces around Damascus. Western intelligence sources said Damascus has been successfully developing the Scud D missile from North Korea. The missile is now said capable of flying more than 720 kilometers and can carry nonconventional warheads. In addition, Syria has built a network of tunnels to conceal its missile arsenal. So far, Syria has dug five tunnels and is believed building another nine. North Korea, know for its tunnels under the DMZ back home, is helping with this project. In Lebanon, Syria has bolstered its troops and particularly air defense systems. The sources said Syria has been bringing in new radar systems to replace those destroyed in April and June. The new stations are said to be able to detect Israeli warplanes while they are still in Israel's Galilee region. In southern Lebanon, Iran is deploying missiles near the border with Israel. Iran is also said to be building a military base in the area.
Jerusalem is home to more than 500,000 Arabs and Jews. But the city is too scary for Israel's military. Israel's military decided not to send officers to tour the city in fear of a terrorist attack. The tour was to be that of the western and Jewish part of the city rather than the Arab eastern sector. Military sources said they want to keep senior officers away from as much danger as possible. It's the latest example of the cultural and psychological gap between much of the army brass and Jerusalem. Israeli combat troops might be fighting the dirty war against the Palestinians around Jerusalem but the military elite avoids the city like the plague. Still, if the military won't come to the insurgency, then the Palestinians are happy to oblige. Palestinian attacks have reached the headquarters of the military in Tel Aviv. Vital Israeli military personnel are said to be vulnerable outside sensitive installations in the Tel Aviv area. Recent military exercises pointed to the prospect that even a lone Palestinian gunman could kill dozens of Israeli soldiers until help arrives. Many non-combat soldiers simply walk the streets unarmed and relatively untrained. One recommendation by a military panel that is studying security around bases: Hire private security agencies to protect the army. WorldTribune, 5 Sept 2001.