March 1, 2012 – TURKEY – U.S. Army’s commander in Europe Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said in an interview at Montenegro’s main military airport in its capital that the U.S. has the forces in place at a radar site in eastern city of Malatya, Turkey. It is the first time a senior U.S. commander has confirmed that the NATO defense shield radar, which has caused tensions between Turkey and Iran, has been operational in the past few weeks. “I can only speak for the ground base air defense units. But I will tell you that we make constant coordination with the U.S. Navy and Air Force, and I think we are well on track to conduct missile defense,” Hertling said. The U.S. says the missile defense shield is designed to counter the Iranian missile threat. In addition to the radar in Turkey, the defense shield also will contain interceptor missiles stationed in Romania and Poland, four ballistic missile defense-capable ships in Spain, and an operational headquarters in Germany. –Turkish Press
Russia has upgraded air defenses at a surveillance station in Syria, in order to provide Iran with better early warning capability in the event of an Israeli attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. The Washington Times, quoting from an Israeli security blog called Debkafile, said the surveillance station, which is south of the Syrian capital of Damascus, had been capable of monitoring Israeli air traffic as far south as Tel Aviv, as well as northern Jordan and western Iraq. The upgrade, however, gives Russia the capability of monitoring all of Israel and Jordan, and extends into northern Saudi Arabia, the report said, adding that Moscow added cutting edge technology to the surveillance site, as well as more manpower. Russia has opposed any attack on Iran or any attempts to get Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. Meanwhile, in a separate report, the Washington Post said the U.S. is increasingly confident in its ability to hit allegedly impregnable underground nuclear sites in Iran with so-called bunker buster munitions. One such site, called Fordow and built into a mountain in northwestern Iran, is more vulnerable than Iranian military planners believe, the paper said, adding that the U.S. has no imminent plans to launch any attack. “Yet as a matter of physics, Fordow is far more vulnerable than generally portrayed, said current and former military and intelligence analysts,’ the Post reported. “Massive new ‘bunker buster’ munitions recently added to the U.S. arsenal would not necessarily have to penetrate the deepest bunkers to cause irreparable damage to infrastructure as well as highly sensitive nuclear equipment, probably setting back Iran’s program by years, officials said. Israel has reportedly been weighing whether to launch a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The U.S. and other Western nations have been urging Israeli restraint. –News Room A.