Even before Ahmadinejad's plane took off from Damascus' international airport, the al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper already knew the fine details of the great military alliance. Not only the exact number of airplanes, tanks, and other Russian weapons that Iran will finance for Syria's benefit, but also which missile plant will be built in Syria by Iran and how Hizbullah will be toppling the Lebanese government and torpedoing the upcoming presidential elections in Beirut.
In short, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London makes pretenses to know these fine details, which any two countries that sign a military-diplomatic deal between them keep as "top secret," if not an even higher classification.
We're indeed talking about a respected and largely credible newspaper, yet the content of the report makes one wonder on more than one count. For example, how would $1 billion courtesy of Iran be enough to fund the purchase of hundreds of tanks, dozens of advanced fighter jets, missiles, and other weapons systems? Even a particularly desperate and "thin" Russian pricelist would not enable such deal at such bargain price.
Another question: Any two countries anywhere in the world that finalize such a far-reaching security-diplomatic deal make sure to keep it "top secret" to make sure it isn't torpedoed. And here, Syria and Iran, which are both countries that manage their affairs in the most secretive manner, are suddenly quick to publicize all details of the agreement. And all of this is taking place in the wake of a meeting of a few hours between Bashar Assad and the Iranian president.
In short, the al-Sharq al-Awsat report has the strong odor of disinformation aimed at serving Syria and Iran.
Syria has an interest in showing Israel that it should rush to embark on negotiations with Damascus concerning the Golan Heights or it will have to fight Syria under much more difficult and possibly lethal conditions. Iran has an interest in showing that Syria, despite Bashar Assad's declarations regarding his desire for negotiations with Israel, continues to be a loyal member of the radical Islamic coalition led by Iran. The same coalition of states and militias referred to as the "axis of evil" by the Americans. The same coalition brought together by Iran, which makes sure that it doesn't fall apart, but rather, expand.
In this context we should note that London has been the international disinformation capital since the 1970s. Therefore, it would be appropriate for Israeli politicians to at least try to find out – and there are ways to do that – the truth of the report before they go ahead and respond to it. They should certainly do so before they demand that the State of Israel form an emergency national unity government in light of the Syrian-Iranian deal (as proposed by Lieberman) or propose that Israel rush to sign a peace agreement with Syria based on the conditions dictated by Assad (as suggested by Beilin.)
It is sad to see how quickly our political leaders respond and how hasty and amateurish their approach is to information of vital importance to us.
So what do we know?
To the crux of the matter, although the al-Sharq al-Awsat report looks and reads like disinformation, it would be appropriate to examine and analyze it carefully and thoroughly in order to assess its credibility.
It is a known fact that Syria is attempting to purchase relatively small quantities of advanced weapons in Russia – mostly anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, and a very limited quantity (five) of advanced Mig 31 fighter jets. It is also known that Iran pledged to fund some of these deals and is already assisting Syria's military industries in producing surface-to-surface missiles and accurate long-range rockets.
But most importantly, we know for certain that Iran is currently attempting to heighten tensions on the Syrian-Israeli border. The Iranians are doing this on all fronts, from top political echelons to lower ranks, through the provision of intelligence information showing that Israel is seemingly planning to launch a war against Syria and Lebanon over the summer in order to erase the impression of the Second Lebanon War failures.
The Iranians are telling the Syrians that Israel is horrified by the loss of its deterrent power in the wake of the war and is therefore planning to embark on another war during summer. Through this information, the Iranians are hoping to create tension between Israel and its northern neighbors.
Then, one spark will suffice to turn this tension into a violent confrontation. According to intelligence assessments, this precisely was Ahmadinejad's intention when he said in Damascus last week that temperatures in the region rise in summer and that he hopes this will lead to another defeat by enemies of the region, namely Israel and the United States.
The Iranian president is also preparing for the possibility of an American strike on his country in order to curb its nuclear program.
These facts are grave enough in order to encourage the State of Israel to remain on guard and ensure that the Syrians don't have reason to think that the Iranian information is taking shape in reality and that Israel is planning to attack them.
Among other things, this would allow Israel to make use of diplomatic levers in the international arena in order to torpedo a large weapons deal, if it was indeed finalized, and to address the question of negotiations with Syria in a practical and level-headed manner.