Amid recent reports that Syria intended to transfer Scud missiles to the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah, U.S. officials to date have been careful to say they do not know for a fact that the missiles were actually transferred to Lebanon, while Israeli officials have said they believe that they were.
U.S. reticence on the matter may be both because it doesn’t know where the missiles are, and to avoid giving pretext for any possible Israeli military attack on Lebanon.
But today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says she thinks there is a “high likelihood” the missiles were sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“I believe there is a likelihood that there are Scuds that Hezbollah has in Lebanon. A high likelihood,” Feinstein told the AFP.
“The rockets and missiles in Lebanon are substantially increased and better technologically than they were and this is a real point of danger for Israel,” she continued.
Her remarks come as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeff Feltman, a former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, is due to testify on U.S. policy to Syria today before the Middle East subcommittee of the house Foreign Affairs Committee this afternoon.
They also come after the State Department summoned the Syrian Deputy Chief of Mission for a rebuke earlier in the week.
POLITICO previously reported that Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) traveled to Damascus to discuss the matter with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad earlier this month. The meeting included him confronting Assad with some sort of classified intelligence, presumably to demonstrate the depth of U.S. concern over the matter.
Kerry today said the intelligence on what Syria transfered and where it is is still incomplete.
“I think it’s safe to say we’re inquiring and trying to get more information about it. I wouldn’t comment on what it is, or isn’t, at this point in time,” Kerry told the AFP.
“There are concerns about rocketry in general, and clearly Hezbollah has been rearmed, but I don’t think there’s clarity as to which weapons yet, with specificity, and where. Where is very important in this question.”
Feinstein also told the AFP that the solution to Hezbollah’s arming was an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. process.
“There’s only one thing that’s going to solve it, and that’s a two-state solution,” Feinstein said.
Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari warned on Wednesday that Tel Aviv’s recent threats are a prelude to a forthcoming Israeli attack against either Lebanon or Syria, the Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) reported.
his warning comes after Israeli President Shimon Peres last week accused Damascus of providing Hezbollah with Scuds, and British daily The Sunday Times reported that Tel Aviv warned Syria it would attack the country in the event of a Hezbollah missile attack on Israel.
The Syrian PM called on the Arabs to agree that Israel is their only strategic enemy in the region. His call contradicts UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan’s statement last Thursday that Iran’s control of three disputed UAE islands is similar to Israel’s occupation of Arab territories.
Syria is the only Arab ally of Iran in addition to Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups.
According to a Lebanese observer who refused to be named for security reason, “Syria should not worry about any Israeli attacks, only Lebanon should be concerned.” He added : “The Syrian -Israeli borders have been the most peaceful for the past 30 years and for this reason Israel doesn’t want to see any change in the Syrian regime”.
Sources: Politico, Ya Libnan