Has Hizbollah finally got its hands on Scud missiles?

Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, has put in words today some fears that have been rumbling around political and intelligence circles for a few months, that Syria has supplied giant Scud missiles to Hizbollah. The missiles have the capability of reaching major Israeli population centres.

“Syria claims it wants peace while at the same time it delivers Scuds to Hizbollah whose only goal is to threaten the state of Israel,” Mr Peres said.

We have no way of knowing at this stage if the accusation is true, and Israel is a master at disinformation, but it could be the case. It is in Israel’s interests of course to push international opinion further against Syria and its ally Iran while a broad coalition is being built to frame a new set of punitive sanctions against Tehran.

It is also difficult to imagine Hizbollah getting its hands on Scuds for a number of reasons. Syria is watched like a hawk and those missiles are huge and difficult to move around undetected. Moreover Syria and Iran know that if Hizbollah’s possession of Scuds is confirmed, they would incontrovertibly be drawn into greater conflict with Israel and the West. Syria is believed to have held off from handing over Scuds in the past for precisely this reason.

Nonetheless we should be very concerned about this worrying development. It adds colour and depth to the seeming delay in the confirmation of a new US ambassador to Syria. It also highlights, as Mr Peres says, that Syria has rather successfully been playing both sides off against each other lately. There is likely to be plenty more to come on this topic.