DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 8, 2012, 11:36 AM (GMT+02:00)
US, Turkish, British, Jordanian and French forces are standing ready around Syrian bordersfor the order to go forward still to come from US President Barack Obama. Syrian President Bashar Assad is regrouping his army in defense array in strategic parts of Damascus, while planting mines and bomb traps in abandoned bases. Convoys carrying missiles, shells and canisters armed with chemical and biological weapons continue to ply roads to the north, while the airlift of Iranian arms is rerouted to northern air bases. The situation in Syria as it stands Saturday, Dec. 8. is summed up by debkafile’s military sources:
1. Assad has so far resisted rebel pressure to withdraw with his army from the capital, Damascus, but as in Syria’s largest town, Aleppo, he has regrouped his forces for the defense of centers of government against the rebel push from the east. For now, his army fully controls the western districts of Damascus and areas up to Zabadani on the Lebanese border. This keeps the Syrian ruler’s direct military corridor open to a key prop of his regime, Hizballah, on the other side of the border.
2. His second key prop is the air passage plied by Iranian transports for keeping his army furnished with arms and ammunition. Up until midweek, the Iranian planes, coming in at the rate of three or four transports a day, were landing at Damascus military air base, which is section of its international airport.
Friday, Nov. 7, the rebels declared both the civilian and military sections of Damascus airport a military target. All planes were warned that by landing there they risked being shot down by the shells or anti-air missiles recently delivered to them by Qatar or booty taken from the Syrian army bases they captured.
Following the rebel warning, the Iranian transports were being rerouted to the Shayrat and Tiyas airbase between the northern Syrian towns of Homs and Palmyra. This necessitates intense Syrian army effort to keep the roads open for the incoming Iranian supplies to reach the hands of the units fighting in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia. 3.
Syrian engineering units are systematically planting mines and booby-trapping the buildings at the bases from which the army has retreated. Our military sources were told that the quantity of explosives Assad’s troops are leaving in their wake would take years to clear.
4. There has been no letup in the military convoys heading north with missiles, shells and bombs containing chemical arms. Western intelligence sources say Assad is keeping the convoys moving on the roads for two purposes: One, as a red warning to the Western and Arab powers preparing to intervene in the Syrian conflict that any attack or attempt to impose a no-fly zone over the country would trigger a chemical offensive.
And two, to confuse his enemies: The poison gas weapons apparently moving openly along Syrian highways may be decoys to conceal the operational chemical warfare units which some Western intelligence watchers suspect are kept hidden until Assad gives them the order to strike