“A New Intelligence Failure?,” by Hosenball, Newsweek

Periscope; Syria
A New Intelligence Failure?
By Mark Hosenball
5 November 2007, Newsweek (thanks M.A.)

The Syrian Desert facility that Israel apparently attacked in a shadowy Sept. 6 raid—and that some administration officials believe was a secret nuclear reactor—might be several years old. Israel bombed the complex near the Euphrates River months after alerting the United States to the existence of a suspect Syrian facility, according to intelligence sources. But photographic evidence obtained by NEWSWEEK shows the boxy main building already existed in 2003, and a European intelligence source said the program might have begun years earlier. The source, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said fresh intelligence suggests the Syrians actually started a hush-hush program under the regime of late president Hafez Assad, who died in 2000, and that initially, clandestine factions of the government may have kept it secret from Bashar al-Assad, Hafez’s son and successor. If true, it could be a significant intelligence failure by American and other Western spy agencies.

(The CIA declined to comment.)
The facility in the 2003 satellite photo, taken by the commercial remote-sensing company GeoEye, appears identical to the one pictured in satellite images snapped weeks before the Israeli strike, with one notable distinction: the recent photos include what analysts have described as a pumping station along the Euphrates. Nuclear experts say Syria probably put in the pumping station to cool a reactor, which many believe was based on a North Korean design and was years from completion. A post-raid commercial satellite image taken last week showed the site had been flattened by bulldozers—evidence that most experts agree demonstrated Syria’s desire to hide all traces of the facility. Israel has kept quiet about its attack, while Syria denied having a secret nuclear program.

Immediately after the bombing, many nuclear-proliferation experts in the United States and Europe expressed doubt that Syria had the money or the scientific capability for a secret atomic program. They also questioned whether North Korea would be desperate and greedy enough to sell nuclear wares to Syria. The new photos now have skeptics admitting they may have been mistaken.

The Bush administration has maintained a strict gag order on discussion of the Israeli attack. But two weeks after the incident, U.S. “intelligence czar” Mike McConnell began giving highly classified one-on-one briefings about the incident to a handful of congressional leaders. Republicans and Democrats came away with opposing conclusions. According to a former administration official, Republican legislators began agitating for a halt, or at least an interruption, in ongoing U.S. disarmament talks with North Korea. But House Foreign Affairs chairman Tom Lantos told NEWSWEEK that even after the briefing, he remains “fully in favor of pursuing ongoing diplomatic discussions with North Korea.” Lantos said he also favors closer relations with both Pyongyang and Damascus, and that if North Korea disarmament talks succeed, the country should be dropped from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism

Comments (32)


1. EHSANI2 said:

“fresh intelligence suggests the Syrians actually started a hush-hush program under the regime of late president Hafez Assad, who died in 2000, and that initially, clandestine factions of the government may have kept it secret from Bashar al-Assad, Hafez’s son and successor”

This does not only indicate intelligence failure in the west but an absolute bombshell for the leadership in Syria!

Clandestine factions of the government keeping such a secret from Bashar?

Well, we can safely assume that such factions are no longer with us on this planet I guess.

This is just great. This story gets weirder by the day.

May be this is why :

1- Nothing was hit
2- Research center was hit.
3- Old military building was hit.

We now find out that the Palace did not even know it existed under its watch. Brilliant.

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October 30th, 2007, 10:53 pm

 

2. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

No way this could have been hapening without Bashar knowing. Large amounts of money or grains were going to the North Koreans and the contacts in North Korea were at the highest level.

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October 30th, 2007, 11:27 pm

 

3. IsraeliGuy said:

Interesting US poll results…

Zogby: Majority Favor Strikes on Iran
http://www.newsmax.com/headlines/zogby_iran_nuclear_strike/2007/10/29/44978.html

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October 31st, 2007, 12:07 am

 

4. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
For a personal view of what the Syrian occupation of Lebanon was like, take a look at:
http://lebanese-forces.org/vbullet/showthread.php?t=28015

And please, I know that the Israeli occupation is not that great either, but at least I don’t fool myself to believe that my shit smells like rose water. In Israel by the way there are citizens that watch the checkpoints and the soldiers know they better behave nicely.

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October 31st, 2007, 1:31 am

 

5. majedkhaldoun said:

the next month Lebanon will have a lot of trouble,I doubt we will know much about that building in Dar Al Zor, the people in Syria believe they have to prepare for war.

AIG;
please remember that Lebanon under Syrian occupation was heaven compare to what Lebanon is now, or will be.

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October 31st, 2007, 1:35 am

 

6. jo6pac said:

I’m totally shocked that my spies could be wrong again, Oh that’s right there are no spies just the WH & VP and they know everything that well be good for us in the US. It just gets weirded by the minute. Hang on it’s going to be a wild 2 years.
j06pac

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October 31st, 2007, 1:44 am

 

7. Alex said:

Ehsani2

When will you start having just a bit of doubt when you read American news stories about Syria??

AIG,

Lebanese Forces is Geagea.

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October 31st, 2007, 2:26 am

 

8. EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

I was actually making fun of the story. I guess I did not do a good job

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October 31st, 2007, 2:33 am

 

9. Friend in America said:

The GeoEye news release was reported last week. This private company sifted through thousands of its satillite photos to find the 2003 picture. In 2003 GeoEye estimated the construction had been going on for 2 years. In September of this year some public writers doubted the veracity of the nuclear reactor analysis because it takes years to build a reactor and they assumed at the time of the IDAF strike the construction had recently started and therefore they could not see the urgency for such a strike.
They were wrong. The construction was nearing completion. Hence Isreal sensed a clear and present danger.
In September there were reports American intelligence had overlooked the progress at this site and were embarrassed when the Israelis spoke in such urgency. That may be.

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October 31st, 2007, 3:12 am

 

10. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,

I know very well who the LF are. But the people recounting their experiences are first and foremost people. You can of course choose to say they are all lying. People can read and judge for themselves. I guess only Imad Moustapha does not lie.

What is your opinion about the anti-Annapolis conference that Bashar is organizing? Do you think that is helpful to peace?

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October 31st, 2007, 5:07 am

 

11. Ghassan said:

Syrian regime does not know even how to lie!
One of the regime said: Nothing was hit, our Air Defence prevented he Israeli airplanes from hitting anything and forced them to flee!
The President (Ya, Bashar) said to the BBC: Aun underconstruction building to be used for military purposes was hit
Another Syrian regime spokesman said: It is just an agriculture research facility!
Who is lying?
2 of them at least or may be all of them.
Unfortunately, the Syrian people are paying the price!

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October 31st, 2007, 5:26 am

 

12. ausamaa said:

Intelligence Failure, Conspiratorial Raid, an Act of Intimidation, or Whatever you want to call it. It is now apparent that it DID NOT WORK OR GET RESULTS. Whatever the intended “Work” or the intended “Results” were.

That is all I can see from watching this eight-week fiasco fold unfold and fold again.

So, what is Next??

I hope whatever comes at Syria next would not as embarrassing as the “Great” Reception the British are according their long term Royal friend, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. If you can’t beat them, join them. KSA standard policy! And trying to get out of the corner it has been placed itself into maybe. But it seems that joining “them” is becoming an embarresment to the “them”.

Israeli brutality and military force is not acheiving Results, Saudi money-power is not, and neither is the Bush Staying the Course attitude.

Time to try another “promissing” venture? Or time to perhaps start seriously considering changing the Dubbya course by Dubbya? Or do still we have to wait a few more months?

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October 31st, 2007, 7:28 am

 

13. Alex said:

AIG

You are also “people” .. that does not mean you are neutral.

Besides, how do you think your 60,000 troops who are stopping the Lebanese civil war will operate or behave over the 30 years you were in Lebanon? … I know you do not like it when Arabs point to Israel’s violent ways of controlling Gaza, or the Abu Ghraib prison and other random killing by US troops in Iraq as they try to control the situation in Iraq …

This process of picking an example of anything bad from the past to generalize and to judge, should either applied to all (including the wonderful only Democracy in the Middle East) or to none… Applying it to Syria only is silly.

As for the Anti-Annapolis Damascus conference and if I think it is helpful to peace … what came first .. the chicken or the egg?

Was Syria invited properly to contribute to the Annapolis conference? … no. Syria was attacked by the Israeli air force.

You keep seeing Syria as a spoiler … you need to see who starts the negativity.

You want Syria to be sweet and quiet as the United States promotes “solutions” that are tailored to Israel’s wishes.

If the obedient rulers of the “moderate Arab states” go along with almost any US plan (for their own instant satisfaction) … Syria has a better vision for the Middle East … and Syria has a lot of patience. If an initiative is good (like the 1991 Madrid conference) we support it. If it is bad news, we don’t.

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October 31st, 2007, 7:29 am

 

14. ausamaa said:

Alex

“If the obedient rulers of the “moderate Arab states” go along with almost any US plan (for their own instant satisfaction) … Syria has a better vision for the Middle East and a lot of patience.”

Do you still think THOSE guys still have Plans that MAY work? Any Plans at all even?

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October 31st, 2007, 7:39 am

 

15. ausamaa said:

Just a thought; was hitting the Syrian whatever site a compensation for the apparent inability of the axis-of-good to do anything about the Iranian reactors? Sort of: See, we can Hit things when needed?? Like Israelies getting tough on Gaza and West bank civillians when they can do nothing about Hizbullah?

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October 31st, 2007, 7:52 am

 

16. Alex said:

Ausamma,

I wish hitting the Syrian site would be sufficient to satisfy the Israeli public and the Israeli army … many in Israel needed to have a summer war with Syria to compensate for the Hizbollah war they “lost” … if hitting this site by the Euphrates, and giving the impression it was a successful high-tech hit on “something big” would do .. then my thanks and admiration to the wise Israeli leadership who managed to save the middle east from a destructive war while satisfying those in Israel who called for military action.

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October 31st, 2007, 8:00 am

 

17. ausamaa said:

What should we call this? The emerging Arabization of the thought process of the Israeli Elite?!!

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October 31st, 2007, 8:40 am

 

18. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Right, so if Syria is not invited “nicely” to Annapolis, it will do all it can to make Annapolis not succeed. This is exactly why Syria is a spoiler and is counterproductive to middle east peace. The European, Americans, Russians etc. all support the Annapolis conference but it is the Syrians that have the “true” vision of what is right for the middle east.

You never answered the following question: Why didn’t Hafez join the Sadat peace process in 1978? Why did he do all he could to go against Sadat? Sadat invited him, and he wouldn’t take part. Was the Syrian vision right then, or were they spoilers?

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October 31st, 2007, 10:53 am

 

19. Sami D said:

ANOTHERISRAELIGUY: “Right, so if Syria is not invited “nicely” to Annapolis, it will do all it can to make Annapolis not succeed. This is exactly why Syria is a spoiler and is counterproductive to middle east peace. The European, Americans, Russians etc. all support the Annapolis conference but it is the Syrians that have the “true” vision of what is right for the middle east. You never answered the following question: Why didn’t Hafez join the Sadat peace process in 1978? Why did he do all he could to go against Sadat? Sadat invited him, and he wouldn’t take part. Was the Syrian vision right then, or were they spoilers? “

True vision for peace is based on justice for the victims. How is this peace conference different from others (Oslo, Wye, Camp David, Road Map, etc) — the ones that only gave cover for Israel to colonize more land, the “peace” treaties that tried to make the Palestinians swallow bantustans as liberation, colonies as fair land-swaps? So, does the Annapolis agenda include talks about dismantling all Israeli settlements and Israeli-only roads, returning the West Bank and Golan water resources to their owners and pay reparation for the water that was stolen from them for over 40 years, the thousands of demolished homes, uprooted olive trees, looted/destroyed ministries, imprisonments, torture, checkpoints that suffocated their every movement? Will the conference discuss the 1967 borders for Israel, the Palestinian refugee rights? Will it discuss the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionism and Zionism’s exclusive claims to the land? I didn’t think so either. So it is not about nice/polite, or otherwise, invitations but about the basics.

The 1978 Camp David peace treaty was not really about peace, but about isolating Egypt from Arab nationalism and from the Palestinian cause, clearing the path for more Israeli belligerence and US dominance. It was not because there was a nice peace conference that Israel returned the Sinai; it was because of the 1973 war. Sadat made the same offer to Israel before 1973 and Israel mocked him, leaving war as the only option. Now Egypt and Jordan are obedient clients of US and Israeli interests, hence “pro-peace” in common parlance, while Syria’s the spoiler for not (yet) accepting those whopping “peace” deals. Nor would I say that it is out of “high” principals on the part of the Syrian leaders for entering/not entering in those “peace” conferences. After all, while they first opposed Sadat ostensibly for abandoning the Palestinian cause, now they are, it seems trying to do the same (presumably because they were left alone standing in the face of Israel and the US.)

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October 31st, 2007, 1:35 pm

 

20. Friend in America said:

Ausamaa –
regarding “another idea,” the theory that the strike on Sept 6 was a demonstration has been considered in several capitals. But there are problems with it. The strike was too risky for just a demonstration for Iran’s benefit. Iran is too far away for Israeli aircraft. However, it did get Teheran’s attention because Iran has the same Russian radar detection equipment. Also in Moscow. Within a few weeks Russian radar technicians were in Iran and Syria.
If I were in Damascus, i could see myself supporting the decision to conceal all information about Dayr az Zawr. This project was started in 2000-2001, or theerabouts. Syria is a signatory ro the Intenational NonProliferation Treaty. That treay obligated Syria to notify its nuclear intentions. Syria did not. Disclosing all now would have its consequences. But then, non disclosure has its consequences also.

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October 31st, 2007, 3:25 pm

 

21. Shual said:

Friend in America: “This project was started in 2000-2001, or theerabouts. Syria is a signatory ro the Intenational NonProliferation Treaty. That treaty obligated Syria to notify its nuclear intentions. Syria did not.”
“On 23 February 1998 Syria and Russia signed an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In July 1998 the two sides agreed on the time table for the realization of a 25-MW light-water nuclear research center project in Syria with the participation of Russia’s Atomstroyeksport and Nikiet.” fas.org

There are two possibilies. Hafez started a program or not. If he started he violated things like Art. III.1 of the treaty, IF -”undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency”- he did not accept safeguards of the IAEA.

And you can show us the requests of the IAEA he violated. I am sure. I can only find: “Syria with the assistance of the IAEA explored…”

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October 31st, 2007, 3:46 pm

 

22. Atassi said:

After reading this article,I am speculating that this site was an extension to the main Korean N. program. Nothing less.I would also speculate that all the employees of this site were Koreans too.
It takes very unique and extraordinary amount of disciplines to hide this kind of information’s for a long time, Not available locally!!

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October 31st, 2007, 4:24 pm

 

23. Alex said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Right, so if Syria is not invited “nicely” to Annapolis, it will do all it can to make Annapolis not succeed. This is exactly why Syria is a spoiler and is counterproductive to middle east peace. The European, Americans, Russians etc. all support the Annapolis conference but it is the Syrians that have the “true” vision of what is right for the middle east.

You never answered the following question: Why didn’t Hafez join the Sadat peace process in 1978? Why did he do all he could to go against Sadat? Sadat invited him, and he wouldn’t take part. Was the Syrian vision right then, or were they spoilers?

1) Imagine if your lovely Israel was in Syria’s shoes. Invited as an observer … notified by email almost. No one visiting you to invite you … treated at same level as Oman… you are invited because you happen to be in the Middle East, nothing more.

Would you find it useful or proper to go?

Don’t worry about the Damascus conference. It won’t make a difference either way. The Annapolis conference will fail because it is another road map joke. Any effort restricted to the obedient Arab moderate leaders is bound to fail.

2) I answered the Camp David question many times in he past. I’ll be happy to answer it again. My father was a UN diplomat stationed in Egypt at the time of Camp David. I know a lot about what happened those days. Prime minister Begin was not going to return the Golan Heights to Syria. The 1973 war convinced him that Egypt+Syria together can be a real threat on Israel … so He decided that taking Egypt out of the Arab world will be worth the “painful concessions”.

That’s it … it is not like Mr, Begin was a peace activist who wanted to return to each Arab side the territories Israel took in 1967.

Why don’t you read President Carter’s opinions on Hafez’s decision not to join? … neither president carter, nor Clinton, nor Bush the father criticized Syria for not wanting peace. Most of the criticism was directed at Prime minsters Begin, Sharon, Shamir, Barak, Netanyahu.

By the way, Sadat went to see Hafez because he felt guilty for what he was about to do. Sadat’s wife gave an interview to Aljazeera few years ago. She said that Sadat had a special admiration to Hafez and she also considered him the wisest and most decent of the leaders they knew. Sadat told her that before going to Jerusalem he needs to talk to his freind Hafez. Believe it or not, they were good friends. After Syria boycotted Egypt, Sadat and Hafez met by chance in an elevator in one of the international conferences (non aligned movement?) and Hafez shook hands with him and was friendly to him and Jihan.

Sami … Syria will sign a peace treaty with Israel that will recover the whole Golan Heights. But they will not forget about the Palestinians. Remember that in the 90′s the Palestinian leaders (Arafat and others) struggled to convince the Syrians that it is not their business to tell the Palestinians what to do and how to do it. Arafat did not want to wait for the Syrian Israeli Golan deal for him to go ahead with Oslo … so they agreed that each can go his own way .. it was a firm Palestinian demand.

Syria will not disappoint its Palestinian allies if it signs a Golan treaty. The Palestinians are completely in the picture and they know Syria is not going to “stab them in the back”.

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October 31st, 2007, 5:15 pm

 

24. SimoHurtta said:

Maybe you Friend In America and your Israeli friends could explain how ISIS, that a couple persons intelligence office, with one satellite image interpreter managed to find just that “spot”, which obviously had been passed by several intelligence gathering organizations. Seems that the ISIS Google Earth expert is more competent than CIA and the others. Maybe USA should consider firing all those thousands analysing satellite images and replace them with the productive ISIS guy.

Another somewhat suspicious thing with this “neutral” Institute for Science and International Security is that it seems not to inspect Israeli nuclear program and facilities. Only Syria, Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. Maybe a better name for ISIS would be Institute for Vodou and Israeli Security. At this stage of the Syria reactor news it is astonishing that not a single newspaper reporter has made a story about the successful ISIS. Where it gets to money to run the office and buy those expensive satellite images?

ISIS has a picture set of Yongbyon Nuclear Site, which should be the model for the Syrian reactor. Can anybody seriously say that the pictures of the Syrian site resembles that North Korean complex?

It is amusing to see how this Syria nuclear story is build by layer upon layer with based on complete speculation and rumours. When the earlier layers have became “truth” trough circular referring new layers are added. Now the Newsweek tells us using a anonymous source that President Assad (junior) may have not know about this project. How do we know that the anonymous source really knows what Assad knows or not? Do the words MAY HAVE make this speculation relevant? Come-on. Equally anybody could claim using the “anonymous source” strategy that Bush might have known about 911 before it happened. Or that Olmert might have a Iranian Palestinian mistress, who is a Hamas and Hizbollah member. But would any self-respecting newspaper publish such claims made by a source who’s one work task is to spread disinformation and who uses words may have?

PS
John Bolton has a new story in WSJ

Bush’s North Korea Meltdown
By John R. Bolton
Word Count: 1,094

Facts about Israel’s Sept. 6 raid on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria continue to emerge — albeit still incompletely, especially regarding the involvement of the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea. Important questions remain, such as whether its personnel were present when the attack occurred, and whether they had been working to clone the Yongbyon nuclear facility in the Syrian desert since the North Korean commitment in February (the latest in a long series) to give up its nuclear programs.

Seemingly unperturbed, however, the Bush administration apparently believes North Korea is serious this time, unlike all the others. The …
• THE FULL WSJ.com ARTICLE IS ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.

Sadly I am not a subscriber so I wait patiently for Bolton’s wise words, when his “analysis” is republished in JP and Haaretz.

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October 31st, 2007, 5:40 pm

 

25. SimoHurtta said:

Reuter’s Mark Heinrich

Syria nuclear probe may be inconclusive

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October 31st, 2007, 6:08 pm

 

26. ausamaa said:

Sideshow in the Desert

Adam Elkus

Special to Defense and the National Interest
October 22, 2007

http://www.defense-and-society.org/fcs/sideshow_in_the_desert.htm

Strike Against Syria

Between September 5 and 6, Israel launched an airstrike, possibly aided by special forces on the ground, on Syria. Though details remain sketchy, there has been much speculation on whether the target of the strike was weapons bound for Hezbollah, nuclear components from North Korea, or Scud missiles. Whatever the target, the aim seems clear. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, Israel’s military decision-makers intended the strike as a signal to Iran and other enemies that Israel’s deterrence, devalued by its humiliating loss to Hezbollah in the August 2006 Lebanon war, “has been restored.” However, the strike does not demonstrate strength. It is only more evidence of Israel’s reliance on high-tech firepower that will not deal with graver threats to its security.

It is true that the strike – and the failure of the Arabs to criticize it – once again demonstrates that Israel has the most powerful military force in the Middle East, with the exception of the US forces massed in the Persian gulf. Iran will take note, as it always has, of this. But an Iranian nuclear strike is not the biggest threat to Israeli security. The view of some Israeli opinion-makers like Benny Morris that Iran will attack Israel with nuclear missiles out of pure hatred for the Jews is far-fetched.

Target: Iran?

For one, the International Atomic Energy Agency has not found any evidence of military use of Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear facilities. If Iran is in fact making a play for nuclear weapons, their purpose would be to counterbalance conventional US air, naval, and ground power deployed in the Persian Gulf and Afghan theaters. It would also aid Iran’s quest to project its power across the Mideast. Lastly, it would shore up Iran’s embattled clerical regime by appealing to Iranian national pride at having joined the nuclear club. None of those objectives would be accomplished by a suicidal nuclear attack that would lead to massive retaliation by Israeli strategic nuclear forces and American conventional airpower. Those who claim that Iran cannot be deterred have done nothing to prove their assertions. Instead, they recite doomsday fantasies of mad mullahs that have little basis in reality. The real threats to Israel lie elsewhere and cannot be defeated by sophisticated firepower.

The Real Threats to Israel

Israel’s northern frontier remains a source of disorder, with Hezbollah ruling an effective autonomous zone inside South Lebanon. As demonstrated during the August 2006 Lebanon war, Hezbollah’s mobile rocket teams can target Israeli territory and mostly elude Israeli retaliation. Israel’s targeting of civilian infrastructure during that war has also bolstered Hezbollah’s position by weakening the Lebanese government and allowing the predominately Shiite Hezbollah to claim it represents the Lebanese national interest. Hezbollah and its allies within the Christian community (led by Michael Aoun) are engaged in a face-off with a coalition of Sunni Muslims, Druze, and marginal Christian factions for control of the Lebanese government, a situation that could possibly degenerate into civil war.

Needless to say, history has shown that such a development would be detrimental to Israeli national security. War with Syria also remains a possibility, due to continuing poor relations. In the event of war, Damascus’s aging Soviet hardware would not pose a serious threat to Israeli forces, but the regime could conceivably employ commando teams, ballistic missiles possibly armed with chemical weapons, newly acquired anti-tank weapons, and guerrilla networks in an attempt to draw out such a conflict until the Israeli public loses the will to win. Yet, as Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) fellow Anthony H. Cordesman noted in a report on Syrian military capabilities, Damascus’ asymmetric capabilities would be little than an “irritant” in the face of vastly superior Israeli firepower.

In any case, the consequences from such a war would be bad for Israel. A limited war, the most likely outcome, would humiliate and radicalize the Syrian regime. The main consequence of this would be speeding up Syria’s ongoing project to develop a surefire means of deterring Israel with weapons of mass destruction. Syria already may be arming its Scud missiles for long-range chemical weapon delivery. If Syria really has been developing a nuclear capability defeat will not halt such a process. Additionally, as Cordesman also argues, Israel has nothing to gain by occupying more Syrian territory.

Israel also has borne some of the brunt of the disastrous American failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fall of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban and the failure to put stable governments in the gaps has increased Iranian political and military power, triggering a struggle for influence between Iran and a coalition of Sunni states – again, not a good outcome for Israeli regional security. Should a joint Euro-American strike or an Israeli strike be launched against Iran’s nuclear facilities and armed forces, Tehran will retaliate against pro-Western interests with a range of lethal options. Iran could retaliate with naval asymmetric warfare against vulnerable oil shipping routes in the Persian Gulf and ballistic missile attacks against American allies. Additionally, Iran could also call up a multitude of guerrilla and terrorist proxies. American, Israeli, and European saber-rattling against Iran has not served to deter its behavior; it has only empowered hardliners and marginalized the already vestigial Iranian moderate opposition.

Finally, Israel faces a grave threat from within – a threat worsened by its own counter-productive actions. The Israeli-American strategy of marginalizing Hamas and backing the unpopular and corrupt Fatah has led to open Palestinian civil war and humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which has now been cut off from electricity and fuel and declared a “hostile entity” by the Israeli government. Israel has also carried out a strategy of targeted assassinations and limited military incursions within Gaza in the hopes of undermining Hamas and deterring its frequent rocket attacks.

Israel and the Bush administration hope that by doing this they can marginalize Hamas and elevate Fatah. However, Gazans blame Israel, not Hamas, for cutting off water and fuel. Without the support of the Palestinian population, Israel will not be able to neutralize the rocket teams. And Fatah – already unpopular due to its corruption and authoritarianism – has been tainted by its association with Israel and America. In any case, it will be hard to cut a deal with a party in control of only half the Palestinian territories. Should Hamas perceive such a deal as illegitimate, it would be easy for them to spoil it with a few well-timed rocket or suicide attacks. There is also a danger that the dismal conditions within Gaza will lead to further Palestinian radicalization, playing into the hands of Al-Qaeda strategists who have sought in vain to open a new front in their war against the West.

These threats are ultimately more dangerous to Israel than a hypothetical Iranian nuclear strike that will most likely never come. And as the 2006 Lebanon war proved, recycled versions of American military “shock and awe” doctrine will not protect Israel from its enemies. Expensive and flashy sideshows in the Syrian desert may delight defense contractors but have no real impact on improving Israeli security. Israel’s conventional military forces can deter invasion by Arab states and prevent an Iranian nuclear-strike. But they lack the capability to wage counterinsurgency warfare and the means to solve the mainly political problems that Israel faces.

An Imperative for Survival

What the Syrian strike instead demonstrates is a lethal combination of arrogance and weakness. Like the United States, Israel has a powerful military and national security state. And like the United States, it has found out the hard way that such power no longer offers protection. Israel would be better served by a strategy that aims to reduce tension with Syria, stop saber-rattling against Iran, cease the counter-productive isolation of Hamas, and work to conclude a genuine peace with the Palestinians.

Most importantly, Israeli decision makers must recognize that their national interests are not served by defining themselves as Washington’s proxy in the region. Recent Israeli security policies, most notably the invasion of Lebanon, were strongly supported by neoconservatives. With the US tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, they see Israel as a tool that could possibly complete the stillborn Bush administration agenda of Middle Eastern transformation. That agenda, however, empowers the very same terrorists that pose the most threat to Israeli security. And however much the neoconservatives may claim to love Israel, they do not have to live with the consequences of Middle Eastern instability. The writers of National Review and Commentary face down rude servers in Washington restaurants, not suicide bombers and rockets.

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October 31st, 2007, 7:42 pm

 

27. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I don’t want a civil war in Lebanon or Syria but I don’t think such situations would be deterimental to Israel. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, I think it is better for Israel. The worst for Israel are regimes that support terror such as what Asad does through Hizballah and Hamas.

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October 31st, 2007, 7:58 pm

 

28. IsraeliGuy said:

Video: Terrorists firing mortars from a Gaza schoolyard
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3466387,00.html

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October 31st, 2007, 8:12 pm

 
 

30. IsraeliGuy said:

The new Global Competitiveness Index for 2007-2008 (by the World Economic Forum) has been released.

The top ranking countries in the Arab world are Kuwait, Qatar, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Here’s the global ranking:
http://www.gcr.weforum.org/pages/GCI_2007_2008.aspx

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October 31st, 2007, 10:49 pm

 

31. ANOTHER ALEX said:

I don’t know how often you guys need to be told: the site above Deir ez-Zor was not a nuclear site, because it could not be. The water supply was only limited, and was not fed back into the Euphrates. So it could not be used for cooling. So no nuclear reactor.

That it was the site bombed by the Israelis, I have little doubt, because of the clearance. Something embarrassing, no doubt. Nuclear reactor, no way.

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October 31st, 2007, 11:20 pm

 

32. Torstein said:

Are there any satellite photos from [i]after[/i] the bombing but before the clearing of the site? I may have missed a bit of news here, but what do we know about the site after the bombing? I remember hearing about a “hole in the roof”, but is there any other proof of what that place looked like afterwards? Maybe it was blown to pieces, which would explain why it’s been cleaned up, although not as meticulously I suppose…

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November 1st, 2007, 1:15 pm

 

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