Iran was said to have received the first advanced air defense systems from Russia.

Russian news agencies reported that Moscow has begun delivery of the TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile system. They said the first of 29 TOR systems have arrived in Iran and that Iranian crews were trained.

Neither the Defense Ministry nor the manufacturer of the TOR, Almaz-Antey, has confirmed the report. The news agencies did not say how many systems arrived in Iran.

“I can affirm with 100 percent certainty that nothing of the kind has happened,” Nikolai Dimidyuk, delegation head of Russia’s state-owned arms agency Rosoboronexport, said at the IndoDefense exhibition in Jakarta on Saturday.

TOR-M1 was developed for short- and medium-range detection and interception. The system was designed to down manned, unmanned aircraft and cruise missiles at a range of 12 kilometers. The system has a detection range of 40 kilometers.

In 2005, Iran and Russia signed a $700 million agreement for the TOR-M1. Russian industry sources said the value of the contract rose to $1.4 billion when Russia agreed to provide additional radars and other advanced equipment.

In early November, the sources said, Moscow pledged to deliver the first TOR systems over the following weeks. They said Tehran had demanded the immediate delivery of the systems to protect its nuclear facilities from Israeli or U.S. air strikes.

The sources said that, with the expanded TOR project, Iran has become the No. 3 client of Russia, following China and India. In a separate development, the Interfax news agency reported that Russian Atomic Energy Agency director Sergei Kiriyenko plans to visit Tehran on Dec. 11 to discuss additional cooperation.

Saudis Launch $60B Modernization Plan

Saudi Arabia plans to spend up to $60 billion to modernize its military.

A Saudi consultant to the royal family has reported a Defense Ministry plan to invest between $50 billion and $60 billion to bolster the kingdom’s military and security forces. The consultant said this would include the procurement of advanced air and ground platforms as well as a 20 percent increase in Saudi ground forces.

“Major strengthening of armed forces initiated; $50 to $60 billion will be invested,” Nawaf Obaid, director of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, said.

Obaid, the security and energy adviser to Saudi ambassador to the United States Prince Turki al-Faisal, outlined an ambitious procurement program in a presentation to the New America Foundation on Nov. 10. Obaid said the Saudi military would acquire fourth-generation aircraft and upgrades.

“The Royal Saudi Air Force will receive a 50 percent fleet expansion of fighter aircrafts nd major upgrades to its existing fleet,” Obaid said.

“Seventy-two new Eurofighter Typhoons have been purchased. The process has begun to upgrade 96 Tornado IDS.”

Another part of the modernization program was the upgrade of Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-origin F-15 fleet. Obaid said the Royal Saudi Air Force would implement what he termed a “new advanced maintenance program for all 155 F-15s – especially for the aging F-15Cs and Ds – to bring them up to combat readiness.”

The air force was also examining a proposal to purchase 48 Rafale fighter-jets from France’s Dassault Aviation. Obaid also cited consideration of an advanced platform to replace the aging Saudi fleet of 43 British-origin Hawks air trainers.

In 2006, Saudi Arabia requested more than $12 billion worth of weapons from the United States. Riyadh has also signed agreements with BAE Systems worth more than $16 billion for the Eurofighter and the upgrade of the Tornado fighter-jet.

Obaid said Saudi Arabia has already signed an accord for 48 UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. He said the Saudi fleet of 12 AH-64A Apache attack helicopters would be upgraded, with the option to purchase 25 AH-64D Apache Longbow platforms.

Under the modernization plan, Saudi ground forces would be significantly bolstered. Obaid said the Royal Saudi Land Forces and Saudi Arabian National Guard would be increased by 20 percent as well as receive new platforms, exercises and training doctrine. This would increase Saudi Army strength to 150,000 troops and SANG to 125,000.

Saudi Arabia has already requested an upgrade of its fleet of 315 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks to M1A2S configuration as well as the addition of 58 M1A1 platforms. Obaid said Riyadh was also examining a proposal to purchase between 350 and 500 French Leclerc MBTs.

Obaid said the Saudi National Guard has created an air command with 64 NH-90 utility helicopters, 12 Tiger attack helicopters and 20 Eurocopter Cougars. He said SANG would construct several bases and expand others.

There is only one country that Saudi Arabia is at war with: Israel. Saudi Arabia declared war on Israel in 1948, for the purpose of liquidating the nascent Jewish state. While Egypt and Jordan eventually reached peace treaties with Israel, and while Lebanon and Syria have signed armistice agreements with the Jewish State, the Saudis remain the only Arab state that neighbors Israel to maintain an active war with Israel.

Pope Visit To Turkey Could Spark Violence

The planned visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey could spark unrest.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara has alerted Americans to the prospect of violence during the pope’s scheduled visit this week. The pope was expected to visit Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul during his visit from tomorrow through Friday.

“While there is no firm information available about any demonstrations against the pope, there may be gatherings to protest his visit,” a warden message by the U.S. embassy said on Nov. 22.

Islamic groups have protested the pope’s visit and Turkish security forces were placed on alert. The papal tour was part of an effort by the Roman Catholic Church to reconcile with the Orthodox Christian movement.

On Nov. 2, a Turkish national, Ibrahim Ak, fired a pistol outside the Italian consulate in Istanbul while threatening to kill the pope. Ak was arrested and nobody was injured.

“God willing, he will not come,” Ak told Turkish television as he was being arrested. “If he comes, he will see what will happen to him.”

One demonstration had been planned for yesterday in Istanbul. The Islamic-oriented Felicity Party, also known as Saadet Partis, said it would protest the papal visit.

The U.S. embassy has also warned Americans of the anniversary of the founding of the PKK today (Nov. 27). The warden message raised the prospect of violent protests and warned Americans to avoid areas of demonstrations.

“On this date, unauthorized gatherings are likely to occur in cities throughout Turkey,” the warden message said. “Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.”

The Middle East NewsLine contributed to this report.

©The Bulletin 2006

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.