Saturday, October 13, 2007

Silence in Syria, Panic in Iran?

[See what one l'il old airstrike can accomplish for the forces of peace, justice, and the American way? And why the hell aren't we following it up before THIS window of psychological opportunity closes as well? - Ed.]

by Dr. Jack Wheeler [reposted with permission]

One of India's top ranking generals assigned to liaise with the Iranian military recently returned to New Delhi from several days in Tehran - in a state of complete amazement.

"Everyone in the government and military can only talk of one thing," he reports. "No matter who I talked to, all they could do was ask me, over and over again, 'Do you think the Americans will attack us?' 'When will the Americans attack us?' 'Will the Americans attack us in a joint operation with the Israeli s?' How massive will the attack be?' on and on, endlessly. The Iranians are in a state of total panic."

And that was before September 6. Since then, it's panic-squared in Tehran. The mullahs are freaking out in fear. Why? Because of the silence in Syria.

On September 6, Israeli Air Force F-15s and F-16s conducted a devastating attack on targets deep inside Syria near the city of Dayr AZ-Zawr. Israel's military censors have muzzled the Israeli media, enforcing an extraordinary silence about the identity of the targets. Massive speculation in the world press has followed, such as Brett Stephens' "Osirak II?" in yesterday's (9/18) Wall Street Journal.

Stephens and most everyone else have missed the real story. It is not Israel's silence that "speaks volumes" as he claims, but Syria's. Why would the Syrian government be so tight-lipped about an act of war perpetrated on their soil?

The first half of the answer lies in this story that appeared in the Israeli media last month (8/13):
Syria's Antiaircraft System Most Advanced In World - Syria has gone on a profligate buying spree, spending vast sums on Russian systems, "considered the
cutting edge in aircraft interception technology."

Syria now "possesses the most crowded antiaircraft system in the world," with "more than two hundred antiaircraft batteries of different types," some of which are so new that they have been installed in Syria "before being introduced into Russian operation service."

While you're digesting that, take a look at the map of Syria: Notice how far away Dayr AZ-Zawr is from Israel. An F15/16 attack there is not a tiptoe across the border, but a deep, deep penetration of Syrian airspace. And guess what happened with the Russian super-hyper-sophisticated cutting edge antiaircraft missile batteries when that penetration took place on September 6th?

Nothing. El blanko. Silence. The systems didn't even light up, gave no indication whatever of any detection of enemy aircraft invading Syrian airspace, zip, zero, nada. The Israelis (with a little techie assistance from us) blinded the Russkie antiaircraft systems so completely the Syrians didn't even know they were blinded.

Now you see why the Syrians have been scared speechless. They thought they were protected - at enormous expense - only to discover they are defenseless. As in naked.

Thus the Great Iranian Freak-Out - for this means Iran is just as nakedly defenseless as Syria. I can tell you that there are a lot of folks in the Kirya (IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv) and the Pentagon right now who are really enjoying the mullahs' predicament. Let's face it: scaring the terror masters in Tehran out of their wits is fun.

It's so much fun, in fact, that an attack destroying Iran's nuclear facilities and the Revolutionary Guard command/control centers has been delayed, so that France (under new management) can get in on the fun too.

On Sunday (9/16), Sarkozy's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner announced that "France should prepare for the possibility of war over Iran's nuclear program."

All of this has caused Tehran to respond with maniacal threats. On Monday (9/17), a government website proclaimed that "600 Shihab-3 missiles" will be fired at targets in Israel in response to an attack upon Iran by the US/Israel. This was followed by Iranian deputy air force chief Gen. Mohammad Alavi announcing today (9/19) that "we will attack their (Israeli) territory with our fighter bombers as a response to any attack."

A sure sign of panic is to make a threat that everyone knows is a bluff. So our and Tel Aviv's response to Iranian bluster is a thank-you-for-sharing yawn and a laugh. Few things rattle the mullahs' cages more than a yawn and a laugh.

Yet no matter how much fun this sport with the mullahs is, it is also deadly serious. The pressure build-up on Iran is getting enormous. Something is going to blow and soon. The hope is that the blow-up will be internal, that the regime will implode from within.

But make no mistake: an all-out full regime take-out air assault upon Iran is coming if that hope doesn't materialize within the next sixty to ninety days. The September 6 attack on Syria was the shot across Iran's bow.

So - what was attacked near Dayr az-Zawr? It's possible it was North Korean "nuclear material" recently shipped to Syria, i.e., stuff to make radioactively "dirty " warheads, but nothing to make a real nuke with as the Norks don't have real nukes (see Why North Korea's Nuke Test Is Such Good News, October 2006).

Another possibility is it was to take out a stockpile of long-range Zilzal surface-to-surface missiles recently shipped from Iran for an attack on Israel.

A third is it was a hit on the stockpile of Saddam's chemical/bio weapons snuck out of Iraq and into Syria for safekeeping before the US invasion of April 2003.

But the identity of the target is not the story - for the primary point of the attack was not to destroy that target. It was to shut down Syria's Russian air defense system during the attack. Doing so made the attack an incredible success.

Syria is shamed and silent. Iran is freaking out in panic. Defenseless enemies are fun.

[Early in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Dominion War saga, the Cardassians, who at this point occupy the space station of the same name, are about to destroy the Federaltion-laid minefield that is blocking the entrance to the Bajoran wormhole that serves as a higher-dimensional bridge to the other of the galaxy, where the Dominion is from. Once the minefield is taken down, 2,800 additional Dominion warships can come through, the Federation and the Klingon Empire will be overwhelmed, and the war will be over.

In a penultimate scene of this episode ("Sacrifice of Angels"), the Dominion leader asks the Cardassian leader, Dukat, how soon the minefield can be detonated. He replies, "We'll be ready to do so in eight hours." The Dominion leader's Vorta lieutenant, with whom Dukat has an on-running rivalry, haughtily and obsequiously gets into Dukat's face and pronounces, "Eight hours? I'll hold you to that, Dukat."

The italicized passage of Dr. Wheeler's essay above reminded me of that line. As we have chronicled, the pussification of the Bush Administration and concommitant slaying of its foreign policy doctrine of pre-emption plumbed new depths with its active, borderline-plaintive attempts to prevent the Israelis from launching their Osirikesque strike on Dayr AZ-Zawr. That, to say the least, does not strike an encouraging note on the chances for "an all-out full regime take-out air assault upon Iran". To say nothing of the related inconvenience that such an air assault cannot take out the mullahgarchy absent an accompanying ground invasion, for which the Bushies, even if they weren't even less inclined towards that than an air campaign, couldn't possibly get congressional approval.

Nobody would be more relieved at the panning out of Dr. Wheeler's martial optimism than I. I hope his take and attached time table are correct. But I'm afraid I won't believe it until I see it with my own astigmatic, bloodshot eyes.]