Saturday, July 21, 2007

Report: Iran to provide Syria with $1b for new weapons

Iran will reportedly fund, at a price of $1 billion, new Syrian fighter jets, tanks, missiles against naval craft and will aid in Syria's nuclear and chemical weapons research programs. In return, Syrian President Bashar Assad has reportedly promised Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to cease the pursuit of peace talks with Israel in exchange for Iranian support of Syrian interests in Lebanon.

The sensitive details from the two leaders' meeting in Damascus earlier in the week were related to the Lebanese Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat by an anonymous Iranian source involved with the discreet meeting, and were brought to light on Saturday.

In response to the alleged deal, chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said "Iran is an ever-increasing threat not only to Israel, but to the stability of the region, to pragmatic Arab states and to the hegemony of the sane and realistic West.

"Syria's convergence to Iran demonstrates Assad's hasty and hazardous nature. In contrast to his father, Hafez, Bashar is taking exaggerated risks and is placing the very existence of his regime in jeopardy," said Hanegbi.

Eitan: We must not negotiate with Syria

The Iranian source went on to tell the newspaper that the countries made strides in tightening their diplomatic and military relations.

As a result of the new agreement, Asharq Alawsat reported, Syria will likely become increasingly dependent on Iran due to the large amount of money the Shi'ite country will transfer to it.

The report went on to say that aside from economic, cultural and scientific cooperation, Iran will help to fund Syria's purchase of Russian and North Korean weapons. These weapons reportedly will include 400 advanced Russian T-72 tanks, 18 Russian Mig 31s, as well as eight M-8 helicopters and other military equipment.

In addition, Iran will reportedly help Syria build factories that would manufacture medium-range missiles, and will also supply Syria with Iranian-made tanks and armored personnel carriers. The Syrian navy will also reportedly be rearmed with Chinese-made C-801 and C-802 missiles, which are presently being manufactured in Iran.

The same type of missile struck an IDF Navy ship off the Lebanese coast last summer during the Second Lebanon War, killing four IDF sailors.

On the diplomatic front, Ahmadinejad reportedly promised Assad to help topple Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and to push sway on the Lebanese parliament with the aim of restoring pro-Syrian influence there. Assad, for his part, agreed not to enter peace negotiations with Israel.

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