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Sunday, May 09, 2010

What's really behind the scud transfer

David Schenker has some interesting thoughts about what's really behind the transfer of scud missiles from Syria to Hezbullah.
The Scud crisis is to some extent a tempest in a teapot. An antiquated system, the Scud is more a psychological than strategic threat to Israel. While the missile is capable of carrying WMD warheads or a heavy payload in excess of 1,000 pounds, it does little to expand the already impressive arsenal that Syria has helped Hizballah to acquire. Likewise, this heavy weapon would seem an anathema to the successful highly mobile insurgency tactics employed by the organization since its inception. On April 15, an article in the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai laid out why Hizballah -- irrespective of whether the transfer occurred -- does not consider the Scud to be a significant upgrade to its armory.

According to the anonymous Hizballah official interviewed, while the Scud has a range of 1,000-1,500 kilometers, the fire prep time is a lengthy 45-60 minutes, and it is only accurate to five kilometers. (Reports in the western press suggest the weapon in question, the Scud D variant, is accurate to within 50 meters). Meanwhile, the official said, Hizballah already possesses the Iranian-made (Syria-provided) Fatah-110, which takes "less than four minutes for an experienced hand" to launch and is accurate to within 5-10 meters. Of course, the payload capacity and range are less, but 250 kilometers, the Hizballahi says, "is the distance required for precise strikes in all the land of occupied Palestine". The Fatah-110 is also WMD capable.

Given the negligible strategic benefit the Scud constitutes for Hizballah -- as well as the logistical headaches involved with establishing an infrastructure for the nearly 40 feet tall weapon and its challenging liquid fuel rocket -- and the minimal additional detrimental impact for Israel, the real question is: why have the reports emerged now? Some analysts in the region, including senior officials of the militia, suggest that the government of Israel invented the issue to distract from its current bilateral problems with the Obama administration. Based on Washington's sympathetic response to Israeli claims, however, this explanation isn't particularly convincing.

More likely, Damascus and Tehran engineered the Scud crisis to divert US-led efforts to build an international coalition to sanction Iran for its nuclear endeavors. Indeed, the timing of the reports is eerily reminiscent of Hizballah's cross-border operation on July 12, 2006, which occurred the same day the P-5+1 meeting in Paris was slated to refer the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council. The kidnapping/killing of Israeli soldiers sparked a war that effectively purchased Tehran nearly another year of unfettered enrichment activity. (While it's impossible to know with any certainty, the new diversion initiative might have been what was discussed at the February 2010 meeting in Damascus between Assad, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinezhad).
Well, maybe. Although I would argue that the diversion of the nuclear proliferation treaty summit from discussing Iran to discussing Israel - a trap laid (possibly unwittingly) by Egypt and into which the Obama administration has fallen full force - has done a far better job of taking the pressure off Iran.

Read the whole thing.


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At 3:42 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Some Israelis moved away from Israel because of the scud experience of the Gulf War in the early '90s. Instead of acquiescing to the scud threat being called a "tempest in a teapot" and saying the scuds are antiquated, etc., the IDF needs to create engineering level representations of what happens when scuds (or any other rockets) land in a civilian area in Israel. What happened to the people in the Gulf War who had to sit in plastic lined rooms and try to put on gas masks with each siren... we were told that most of the IEDs in Iraq that have allowed insurgents to kill our troops have been made from these antiquated stockpiles. Israel goes along with the examination of every second of the LebII and Gaza engagements, but does not make the case for the decade of rockets landing randomly on Israeli civilians... these are war crimes that Israel brushes off. Does the IDF think that making the case makes Israel seem weaker or something? Don't get it.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its a distraction from the need to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat. Israel must not take Iran's bait and focus on the wrong target.

What could go wrong indeed

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Syria does have an active Chemical and Biological weapons program. The type of Scuds (D variants) being transferred to Hezbollah are indeed the delivery platform for those type of weapons. The missile itself doesn't have to be accurate to deliver a Chemical or Biological payload for it be effective against major Israeli population centers. If Syria is willing to transfer this type of missile with it "known" to be associated with their WMD program, it stands to question what else Syria is transferring with the Scuds. I'm sure that this what the fracas is all about.


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