Syria's Scud Transfers Only 'Tip of the Iceberg'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Syria's transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah is "only the tip of the iceberg," a senior Israeli military source said on Tuesday.

Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Israel's Military Intelligence research department, called Syria's transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah "organized and official."
 
"Weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes; therefore, it should not be called smuggling of arms into Lebanon. It is [an] organized and official transfer," Baidatz said during a briefing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The long-range missiles in Hezbollah's possession enable them to fix their launch areas deep inside Lebanon, and they cover longer, larger ranges than what we have come across in the past," he said.

"Hezbollah of 2006 [in the Second Lebanon War] is different from Hezbollah in 2010 in terms of its military capabilities, which have developed significantly," he said.

"Hezbollah is in a tense spot between two different identities: it's commitment to jihad ["holy" war] and Iran and, on the other hand, its political considerations in Lebanon and the needs of the Shiite community. Therefore it has quietly selected its current course of action," Baidatz explained. 

"The MI [Military Intelligence] believes it is not interested in another wide-scale confrontation with Israel. It fears it, but is preparing for it. The organization still publicly vows to carry out terror attacks against Israel," he said.

U.S. Renews Sanctions

Meanwhile in the U.S., President Barack Obama renewed economic sanctions against Syria and extended the national state of emergency.

Sanctions were first imposed in May 2004 by former President George W. Bush, who recalled the U.S. ambassador because of Syria's state sponsorship of terrorism. Bush extended the sanctions through the end of his administration.

Obama acknowledged that Syria continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, support terror groups and expand its missile program.

Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya told CBN News that American overtures to Syria in the last year have not changed Syrian support for terror groups.

"If anything, the positive steps taken by the U.S. in the past year have strengthened Syria, making it more decided, more assertive and more aggressive," Karmon said.

Committed to Improving Relations

Last month, at a press conference before the NATO foreign ministers, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to improving relations with Syria.

"The larger question as to what the United States will do with respect to Syria is one we've spent a lot of time considering and debating inside the administration," Clinton told reporters.

"Where we are today is that we believe it is important to continue the process to return an ambassador. This is not some kind of reward for the Syrians and the actions they take that are deeply disturbing," she said.

Clinton said a U.S. ambassador in Damascus would help the Obama administration assess the situation on the ground.

"We have a long list of areas that we have discussed with the Syrians and we intend to continue pushing our concerns, and we think having an ambassador there adds to the ability to convey that message strongly and hopefully influence the behavior in Syria," she said.

According to Clinton, the U.S. does not believe Syria has transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah yet.

"These stories that do suggest there has been some transfer of weapons technology into Syria with the potential purpose of then later transferring [the weapons] to Hezbollah inside Syria," she said.

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