Syria is secretly helping Saddam Hussein to prepare for a U.S.-led attack by smuggling vital arms supplies to Baghdad, the London Telegraph reports today.
Western intelligence officials have discovered that at least 52 crates containing new air-defense systems and spare parts have been smuggled into Iraq from Syria since the start of December, the Telegraph reports.
The report, which comes on the eve of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s arrival in Britain to meet Prime Minister Tony Blair, says the equipment in question is Russian-made and was purchased through a Belorussian middleman.
In an interview with the London Telegraph last week, Assad defended the activities of Arab suicide bombers in Israel, and gave warning that a military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein would have ”catastrophic consequences” for the region.
While Damascus says it is backing the international campaign against al-Qaida, it has recently improved ties with Baghdad, allowing Saddam to open an oil-smuggling route through the port of Latakia, the Telegraph reports.
Syria also allows a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, to base themselves in Damascus and in Lebanon, a neighbor dominated by military occupation.
The Telegraph says defense experts believe the latest Syrian arms shipments will help Iraq radically upgrade air-defense capabilities – in particular, improving the range and effectiveness of Soviet-made SA6 anti-aircraft missiles.