Israel Charges Syria-Hezbollah Scud Transfer
Israeli officials in April accused Syria of transferring short-range ballistic missiles to Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militia group the United States classifies as a terrorist organization. Such a transfer would provide Hezbollah with its first ballistic missile capability and extend the reach of its offensive systems to cover all of Israel.
During an April 13 meeting with French Prime Minister François Fillon, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Syria is playing “a double game,” Peres’ spokesman said afterward. “On the one hand it talks peace, yet at the same time, it hands over accurate Scud missiles to Hezbollah so that it can threaten Israel,” he said.
Syria and Lebanon have denied the claim. Hezbollah is also a Lebanese political party that holds seats in parliament.
Iran has reportedly supplied Hezbollah with “many types of rockets since 1992,” according to a U.S. intelligence report submitted to Congress in March. During the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, Hezbollah reportedly fired several thousand rockets into Israel.
The longest-range rocket Hezbollah is believed to maintain, the Iranian-supplied Zelzal-2, has a range of 350 to 400 kilometers.
It is unclear what type of Scud missile Syria is accused of transferring to Hezbollah. A 2009 National Air and SpaceIntelligenceCenter report indicates that Syria maintains the Scud-D variant, which has a range of about 700 kilometers.
Although U.S. officials have indicated that they have not yet determined whether the Scud transfer took place, the Department of State on April 19 summoned Syrian Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour to discuss long-standing concerns regarding the arming of Hezbollah.
Following that meeting, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hezbollah.”
The accusation comes as the United States prepares to appoint a new ambassador to Syria, Washington’s first in five years.
EU Calls for NPT Action Plan
The European Union is promoting the adoption of an “ambitious action plan” by members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at this month’s review conference to strengthen efforts to reduce nuclear weapons and prevent their spread.
In the March 29 EU Council Decision for the review conference, which begins May 3 at the United Nations, disarmament measures figure more prominently in the EU’s agenda than they did in the analogous document that the EU adopted for the 2005 NPT meeting. The EU reaffirms its “commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons,” the new document says. It stresses “the need for more progress in decreasing” U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and reducing “the operational readiness of their nuclear weapon systems to the minimum level necessary.”
However, EU countries failed to agree on a joint working paper on tactical nuclear weapons because of the opposition of France and some central European states, diplomatic sources said. In an April 20 interview, a senior German official said there was “a misperception in some member states who viewed this as an introduction of internal NATO discussions into the NPT.”
The document emphasizes “the need to take resolute action in response” to the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. The EU also supports a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and calls on all states in the region “to refrain from taking measures that preclude the achievement of this objective.” In addition, the EU endorses strengthened nuclear export controls, particularly on technologies for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies, and promises to work within the Nuclear Suppliers Group toward making “adherence to the Additional Protocol a condition for nuclear supply.”
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton is expected to present the EU’s position at the review conference.
U.S. Launch Stirs Space Weaponization Concerns
The U.S. Air Force launched a reusable orbital test vehicle April 22, sparking concerns in some quarters about a space weaponization race. At a media briefing two days before the launch, Gary Payton, undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, highlighted the possibility of using the X-37B to conduct experiments with new technologies and stressed that the launch was primarily to test the vehicle itself. He did not provide details on the exact payload and some other features of the spacecraft. International media and U.S. experts pointed to potential military uses of a cargo-carrying, maneuverable space plane. An April 26 editorial in China’s Global Times, which is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, pointed to Chinese and Russian concerns about space security and said the world should demand greater public detail and request that the United States “commit to not using the space plane for military purposes.” At the media briefing, Payton said, “I don’t know how this could be called weaponization of space. It’s just an updated version of the space shuttle kind of activities in space.” The vehicle, built in part by Boeing, is much smaller than the space shuttle, unmanned, designed to land itself, and capable of staying in space up to 270 days. Payton indicated that a second X-37B could be launched before the first one returns.