Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
Israeli air strike did not hit nuclear facility, intelligence officials say, 09/24/2007
Filed by Larisa Alexandrovna, Raw Story
Attack said spawned from chemical weapons disaster
Israel did not strike a nuclear weapons facility in Syria on Sept. 6, instead striking a cache of North Korean missiles, current and former intelligence officials say.
American intelligence sources familiar with key events leading up to the Israeli air raid tell RAW STORY that what the Syrians actually had were North Korean No-Dong missiles, possibly located at a site in either the city of Musalmiya in the northern part of Syria or further south around the city of Hama.
While reports have alleged the US provided intelligence to Israel or that Israel shared their intelligence with the US, sources interviewed for this article believe that neither is accurate.
By most accounts of intelligence officials, both former and current, Israel and the US both were well aware of the activities of North Korea and Syria and their attempts to chemically weaponize the No-Dong missile (above right). It therefore remains unclear why an intricate story involving evidence of a Syrian nuclear weapons program and/or enriched uranium was put out to press organizations.
The North Korean missiles — described as "legacy" by one source and "older generation" by another — were not nuclear arms.
Vincent Cannistraro, Director of Intelligence Programs for the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan and Chief of Operations at the Central Intelligence Agency's Counterterrorism Center under President George H. W. Bush, said Sunday that what the Israelis hit was "absolutely not a nuclear weapons facility."
"Syria has a small nuclear research facility and has had it for several years," Cannistraro said. "It is not capable of enriching uranium to weapons capability levels. Some Israelis speculated that the Syrians had succeeded in doing just that, but according to the US intelligence experts that is simply not true."
But "Syria has a chemical weapons capability and has been trying to chemically weaponize war heads on their existing stocks of North Korean originated missiles," Cannistraro added.
Israeli government and embassy officials are not commenting on the incident.
According to intelligence sources familiar with the events leading up to the raid, an explosion on July 20 at a Syrian facility near the city of Halab, in the Northern part of Syria, caused Israel's retaliatory strike on Sept. 6.
They could not say what caused the delayed reaction.
Chemical warhead exploded at site
North Korean scientists working with Syrian military and intelligence officials attempted to load a chemical warhead onto one of the North Korean missiles, likely the No-dong 1 model, according to intelligence current and former intelligence officers interviewed for this article. The result was an explosion that killed a few of those present and, according to some official reports of the blast, as many as 50 civilians.
The SANA news agency described the blast at the time as "not the result of sabotage," but an explosion resulting from "the combustion of sensitive, highly explosive material caused by extremely high temperatures."
The No-Dong 1 missile is a redesigned SCUD-C, which the Syrians are alleged to have acquired in the mid-1990s according to some estimations, while others say perhaps as late as 2000. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the No-Dong has a potential range/payload capacity of 1,000-1,300 km/700-1,000 kg.
Cannistraro believes that these missiles were No-Dong, but did not specify which class. Others, however, named the No-Dong 1 model or described the missile in such a way as to indicate what could only be the No-Dong 1 model.
The chemical explosion is believed to have included a Sarin nerve agent and made the area around the blast dangerous even after the fire from the explosion had been extinguished. This would make reconnaissance of the area difficult for foreign intelligence officers attempting to collect samples and data after the blast.
The United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention treaty of 1993 outlawed the stockpiling of Sarin, but neither Syria nor North Korea are signatories to the treaty.
Some believe that the Office of the Vice President is continuing to battle any attempts at diplomacy made by the US State Department in an effort to ensure no alternative but a military solution to destabilize and strike Iran, using Syria's alleged nuclear weapons program and close relations with Iran as a possible pretext.
A Sept. 16 piece in the London Sunday Times alleged the attack proved Israel could penetrate Iran's air defenses.
"By its actions, Israel showed it is not interested in waiting for diplomacy to work where nuclear weapons are at stake," reporter Uzi Mahnaimi wrote. "The Israelis proved they could penetrate the Syrian air defence [sic] system, which is stronger than the one protecting Iranian nuclear sites."
Comment by JL: John Bolton responds to the news now emerging that Israel's raid turned up no proof of radiation from the Syrian site that was bombed. Bolton argued that the bombing raid was necessary to destroy nuclear cooperation between Syria and North Korea. The most important line in his defense is,
"Israel's specific target is less important than the fact that with its objection to the raid, North Korea may have tipped its hand. Pyongyang's interest in the raid may be evidence of secret nuclear cooperation between the regime and Syria."
He now argues that because North Korea said it was innocent, it is guilty. Evidence from Syria is immaterial. Proof of Syria's "evilness" can be established by North Korea's objection to the raid. One must respect the audacity.
Syria Joins the Axis of Evil,
By JOHN R. BOLTON
Wall Street Journal – Sep 24, 2007
The six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program are set to resume on Sept. 27 in Beijing. Since the last session, a raft of "working group" meetings and Democratic People's Republic of Korea propaganda events have purportedly shown "progress" in implementing the Feb. 13 agreement to eliminate the North's nuclear capabilities. On Oct. 2, South Korean President Roh Muh-hyun will travel to Pyongyang to embrace Kim Jong Il. Mr. Roh hopes to boost political allies in a close presidential race against opponents of his appeasement policies.
But this entire diplomatic minuet has been reduced almost to insignificance by news from an unexpected place: the Middle East. A dramatic and apparently successful night-time Israeli air attack on Syria, whose details remain extraordinarily closely held, has increased the stakes. North Korea immediately condemned the raid, an action that raises this question: What is it about a raid in Syria that got Kim Jong Il's attention?
Israel's specific target is less important than the fact that with its objection to the raid, North Korea may have tipped its hand. Pyongyang's interest in the raid may be evidence of secret nuclear cooperation between the regime and Syria. There is much still unknown about a potential North Korea project in Syria, such as whether it was a direct sale of technology or equipment to the Syrians, a stand-alone facility or some sort of joint venture. In any case, the threat to Israel of such a project would be acute, perhaps existential — which is why it would risk all-out regional war to strike pre-emptively.
Outsourcing strategic programs is nothing new for North Korea. For years, Pyongyang has been an aggressive proliferator of ballistic-missile technology, especially to the Middle East. In 1998, North Korea conducted a successful Taepo Dong missile launch and shortly thereafter gained an enormous propaganda boost by announcing a moratorium on launch-testing from its territory. But it didn't halt missile development and benefited greatly from Iran's ballistic missile program. Sharing data made eminent sense since both countries used the same basic Scud technology. Having successfully worked this shell game in ballistic missiles, it should come as no surprise that North Korea would try it again in the nuclear field.
Iran's increasing hegemony over Syria makes Syrian-North Korean cooperation in nuclear matters unlikely without its consent. Although Iran's involvement here is murky, its incentive to conceal its own nuclear program raises the possibility of a three-way deal. Most chillingly, the United States and Israel must now ask whether the Iranian and North Korean nuclear challenges can be resolved in isolation from one another.
Until more details become public, debate over the full extent of Syrian-North Korean cooperation will continue. What the Israeli attack highlights, however — even if it does not prove conclusively for now — is that North Korea is a global threat.
If the North is engaging in nuclear cooperation with Syria, the Feb. 13 agreement should be terminated. How much more evidence of mendacity do we need before we wake up? In fact, the Feb. 13 agreement is now merely a slogan. Its deadlines and its "actions for actions" mantra have disappeared, lost in a "process" of endless meetings and working groups. This "process" is inherently favorable to Kim Jong Il because it enables the North's legendary ability to trade the same obligation multiple times for tangible rewards, whether or not it performs.
Even if we "only" have evidence of continued North Korean ballistic missile cooperation with Syria, that alone should keep the North on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Syria — and its senior partner, Iran — are both long-time denizens of that same list of state sponsors of terrorism. Can we really delist North Korea when it partners with other terrorist states in the most destructive technologies?
Moreover, where are Syria's ballistic missiles — and its weapons of mass destruction — aimed? With American forces at risk in Iraq, no increase in the threats they face is acceptable, especially given Syria's record on Iraq to date. Syria remains at war with Israel and with Lebanon's Cedar Revolution. No one concerned about Israel's security or Lebanon's democracy should countenance giving North Korea a pass on the terrorism issue.
If the evidence is uncertain or mixed, the State Department will, unfortunately, desperately cling to "the process." If so, to protect the U.S. from the national security risk and international humiliation of another Pyongyang diplomatic triumph, we must insist on real dismantling of the North's nuclear program and a broad, deep and lasting verification mechanism. Moreover, what was once a subsidiary verification issue — North Korean outsourcing off the Peninsula — now assumes critical importance.
When will real verification experts from across our government finally receive a significant role? As one verifier said recently, "we'll know what's really going on when U.S. physicists start talking to [North Korean] physicists." State's diplomats should welcome this assistance, although traditionally they view the arrival of verifiers into arms control negotiations the same way Al Capone saw Elliot Ness and "The Untouchables." Of course, beyond negotiations, we need the concrete verification itself, which is barely a mirage in the six-party talks.
Developments in Syria should have brought the administration up short. Instead, the State Department has accelerated its efforts to declare "success," a deeply troubling and dangerous sign. This reflects a cultural problem at State, where "zeal for the deal" too often trumps the substance of the deal itself.
President Bush stands at a dispositive point regarding his personal legacy on North Korea. Until now, one could say with a straight face, if not entirely accurately, that implementing the Feb. 13 agreement was the State Department's responsibility. No longer. The Israeli strike and the possible Syrian-North Korean nuclear cooperation associated with it have presidential consequences. Further concessions to the North can now be laid only at the White House door, just as only the president can bring a tougher, more realistic attitude to the issue. That would be a real legacy.
Mr. Bolton is senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defeating America at the U.N. and Abroad," forthcoming from Simon & Schuster.
Addendum: Later in the day, this interview with Bolton appeared on Fox News:
What the Israelis struck I cannot say; whether a nuclear or missile facility is not clear," Bolton said from his office at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
He offered the possibility that it was a joint research venture or simply a North Korea facility located in Syria. "Any of these options is enough to show proliferation by the North Koreans and that is very dangerous," Bolton said.
He ruled out other theories, meanwhile, including that the target was Iranian missiles to be shipped to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon for attacks on Israel or that Israel was testing Syria's air defenses."I don't think the Israelis would have taken the risk unless it was a very high-value target," Bolton said.
Neither American nor Israeli officials are saying whether the target was a nuclear or missile facility and many don't know, Bolton said.
The former State Department official and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said he did not object to the Beijing talks, which are designed to disable North Korea's nuclear program. At a session last February, North Korea agreed to shut down its main nuclear facility and eventually disable its programs in exchange for aid equivalent to 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil.
Bolton said it would be wrong, however, to remove North Korea from the U.S. list of countries that support terror and therefore are ineligible for various benefits.
"If they are cooperating with either Syria or Iran, such as on ballistic missile stuff, they should stay on (the list) with Syria and Iran," he said.
"If you are supporting terrorist regimes, you are a state supporter of terror," he said.
Newsweek: Whispers of War: A secret raid, nuclear ambitions and the next crisis: how far will Israel go to keep Iran from getting the bomb? By Dan Ephron and Mark Hosenball.
In Washington, on the other hand, the consensus against a strike is firmer than most people realize. The Pentagon worries that another war will break America's already overstretched military, while the intelligence community believes Iran is not yet on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough. The latter assessment is expected to appear in a secret National Intelligence Estimate currently nearing completion, according to three intelligence officials who asked for anonymity when discussing nonpublic material. The report is expected to say Iran will not be able to build a nuclear bomb until at least 2010 and possibly 2015. One explanation for the lag: Iran is having trouble with its centrifuge-enrichment technology, according to U.S. and European officials.
Twice in the past year, the United States has won U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran. More measures might come up at Security Council discussions later this year, and recently French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that European nations might impose their own sanctions. One U.S. official who preferred not to be identified discussing sensitive policy matters said he took part in a meeting several months ago where intelligence officials discussed a "public diplomacy" strategy to accompany sanctions. The idea was to periodically float the possibility of war in public comments in order to keep Iran off balance. In truth, the official said, no war preparations are underway.
There are still voices pushing for firmer action against Tehran, most notably within Vice President Dick Cheney's office. But the steady departure of administration neocons over the past two years has also helped tilt the balance away from war. One official who pushed a particularly hawkish line on Iran was David Wurmser, who had served since 2003 as Cheney's Middle East adviser. A spokeswoman at Cheney's office confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Wurmser left his position last month to "spend more time with his family." A few months before he quit, according to two knowledgeable sources, Wurmser told a small group of people that Cheney had been mulling the idea of pushing for limited Israeli missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz – and perhaps other sites – in order to provoke Tehran into lashing out. The Iranian reaction would then give Washington a pretext to launch strikes against military and nuclear targets in Iran. (Wurmser's remarks were first reported last week by Washington foreign-policy blogger Steven Clemons and corroborated by NEWSWEEK.) When NEWSWEEK attempted to reach Wurmser for comment, his wife, Meyrav, declined to put him on the phone and said the allegations were untrue. A spokeswoman at Cheney's office said the vice president "supports the president's policy on Iran."
The question may not be whether America is ready to attack, but whether Israel is. ….
Syria to weigh joining Mideast conference: Damascus calls for comprehensive peace, wants proposed conference to have ‘clear agenda’.
By Roueida Mabardi – DAMASCUS
Syrian participation in a US-sponsored peace conference could ease its troubled ties with the international community but Damascus is unlikely to back down on its terms, diplomats and officials say.
"Syria will decide on whether to participate after it receives an invitation," Information Minister Mohsen Bilal said on Monday, while stressing that Damascus wanted a.
He said the conference must be focused on "the imperatives for a just and comprehensive peace" such as the creation of an independent Palestinian state, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and the Golan's return to Syria.
"The United States and Israel are very mistaken if they are trying with this meeting to bring about a normalisation" between Syria and Israel, the minister warned.
A senior US State Department official said on Sunday that Washington planned to invite Syria — as part of an Arab League committee tasked with following up on a Saudi peace plan — to the Israeli-Palestinian conference later this year.
The United States "recognises that its presence is necessary", said a European diplomat posted in Damascus.
"If the conference turns out to be public relations exercise, it is not in Syria's interest to take part," an official said. It wants a "clear agenda" and not only on the Israeli-Palestinian track of the peace process.
The official said Damascus wanted an "impartial and balanced" conference.
Syria demands the return of the entire Golan Heights which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East and annexed in 1981. Direct negotiations between the two countries broke down in January 2000.
It has come under international pressure over Lebanon, Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But the Syrian official stressed that Damascus would "not give up on its support for the national resistance (against Israel) nor its strategic alliance with Iran".
The diplomat, on condition of anonymity, said that Syria which hosts hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and whose Golan Heights remain occupied by Israel would have to form part of any comprehensive solution.