|09-26-2007, 09:06 PM||#1|
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Israel and the Syrian / North Korean Nuclear Connection
Sunday Times: Israel "blew apart" nuclear cache in northeastern Syria
By Israel Insider staff September 16, 2007
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The Sunday Times of London provides additional reporting on the September 6 foray into Syria, further bolstering the growing consensus that Israel "blew apart" or possibly hijacked a nuclear cache, uranium enrichment facilities, or other non-conventional weapons equipment furnished by North Korea.
The report begins in dramatic action-novel fashion: "It was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria's formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way."
The Times indicated that an Israeli advance team from a top-secret special forces unit was already in place on the ground. "At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag ["kingfisher"] air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames."
The Times, citing Israeli sources, said that preparations for the attack had been going on since late spring, when Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, presented Olmert with evidence that Syria was seeking to buy a nuclear device from North Korea, apparently for mounting on North-Korean-made Scud-C missiles.
"This was supposed to be a devastating Syrian surprise for Israel," said an Israeli source, the Times reported. "We've known for a long time that Syria has deadly chemical warheads on its Scuds, but Israel can't live with a nuclear warhead."
The target was identified as a northern Syrian facility that purported to be an agricultural research centre on the Euphrates river, reportedly Deir az Zor. Israel had been monitoring it for some time, concerned that it was being used to extract uranium from phosphates. The Times, citing an "Israeli air force source," reported that the Israeli satellite Ofek 7, launched in June, was diverted from Iran to Syria, sending out high-quality images of northeastern Syria every 90 minutes.
The plan may explain the mixed signals being sent to the Syrians concerning possible war during the summer. Defense minister Ehud Barak had ordered the doubling of Israeli forces on its Golan Heights border with Syria in anticipation of possible retaliation by Damascus in the event of air strikes. The Syrian also escalated their preparations, and apparently moved toward Mount Hermon, apparently believing that the Israeli target was on the Golan.
Barak, reportedly fearing events could spiral out of control, decided to reduce forces on the Golan and the government issued calming statements. Syria then de-escalated. It was then that the IAF struck.
The Times report said that "only three Israeli cabinet ministers are said to have been in the know -- Olmert, Barak and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister. America was also consulted. According to Israeli sources, American air force codes were given to the Israeli air force attache in Washington to ensure Israel's F15Is would not mistakenly attack their US counterparts."
But what would American F15s being doing in the skies over Syria? The Times report didn't say, but the target sites was about 50 miles from the Iraqi border, seconds in F15 flying time.
The times reported that in Washington, there was some speculation that the air strikes were actually "a diversion for a daring Israeli commando raid, in which nuclear materials were intercepted en route to Iran and hauled to Israel." But most other reporting indicates that the Israeli forces destroyed their target.
By all accounts, except those of the Syrians, who continue to claim, unconvincingly, that the Israeli strike was an abortive failure, the mission was a clear success. As the Times notes, "Israel showed it is not interested in waiting for diplomacy to work where nuclear weapons are at stake" and showed its capability to "penetrate the Syrian air defence system, which is stronger than the one protecting Iranian nuclear sites." Certainly it represented an assertion of Israeli air superiority and thus a likely deterrent on Syrian and Iranian aggressive intentions.
The Sunday Times also reported direct Iranian involvement in the aftemath. "This weekend President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent Ali Akbar Mehrabian, his nephew, to Syria to assess the damage. The new "axis of evil" may have lost one of its spokes."
However the former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, told The Jerusalem Post that "simple logic" could lead one to the conclusion that Syria was harboring nuclear material. Bolton suggested North Korea and Iran could have outsourced nuclear development "to a country that is not under suspicion" -- namely Syria. "Why would North Korea protest an Israeli strike on Syria?" he added.
Explaining why Syria would take the risk of hosting part of a North Korean nuclear program, Bolton spoke of "Iranian compensation."
"Syria is very aggressive in pursuing WMD capability," he said, noting that such a partnership would indeed be chancy for Syria, but such risks might be considered worthwhile "when you're as aligned as seriously as Syria is with Iran."
"It's a diversion game - to carry on even when you are supposed to have halted, as in the case of North Korea. And I'd be surprised if Syria would do anything with North Korea without Iranian acquiescence," Bolton continued.