Iranian Defector Reportedly Tipped Off U.S. on Syria Nuke Plant

Iranian Defector Reportedly Tipped Off U.S. on Syria Nuke Plant
Fox News, Thursday, March 19, 2009

File: Satellite image shows suspected nuclear reactor site in Syria.

GENEVA — A top-ranked Iranian defector told the United States that Iran was financing North Korean moves to make Syria into a nuclear weapons power, leading to the Israeli air strike that destroyed a secret reactor, a report said Thursday.

The article in the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung goes into detail about an Iranian connection and fills in gaps about Israel’s Sept. 6, 2007, raid that knocked out Syria’s nearly completed Al Kabir reactor in the country’s eastern desert.

The February 2007 defection to the United States of Ali Reza Asghari, a retired general in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and a former deputy defense minister, provided considerable information on Iran’s own nuclear program, said the article, written by Hans Ruehle, former chief of the planning staff of the German Defense Ministry.

“The biggest surprise, however, was his assertion that Iran was financing a secret nuclear project of Syria and North Korea,” he said. “No one in the American intelligence scene had heard anything of it. And the Israelis who were immediately informed also were completely unaware.”

Ruehle, who did not identify the sources of his information, publishes and comments on security and nuclear proliferation in different European newspapers and broadcasts and has held prominent roles in German and NATO institutions.

U.S. intelligence had detected North Korean ship deliveries of construction supplies to Syria that started in 2002, and American satellites spotted the construction as early as 2003, but regarded the work as nothing unusual, in part because the Syrians had banned radio and telephones from the site and handled communications solely by messengers — “medieval but effective,” Ruehle said.

Intensive investigation followed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services until Israel sent a 12-man commando unit in two helicopters to the site in August 2007 to take photographs and soil samples, he said.

“The analysis was conclusive that it was a North Korean-type reactor,” a gas graphite model, Ruehle said.

Other sources have suggested that the reactor might have been large enough to make about one nuclear weapon’s worth of plutonium a year.

Just before the Israeli commando raid, a North Korean ship was intercepted en route to Syria with nuclear fuel rods, underscoring the need for fast action, he said.

“On the morning of Sept. 6, 2007, seven Israeli F-15 fighter bombers took off to the north. They flew along the Mediterranean coast, brushed past Turkey and pressed on into Syria. Fifty kilometers (30 miles) from their target they fired 22 rockets at the three identified objects inside the Kibar complex.

“The Syrians were completely surprised. By the time their air defense systems were ready, the Israeli planes were well out of range. The mission was successful, the reactor destroyed,” Ruehle said.

Israel estimates that Iran had paid North Korea between $1 billion and $2 billion for the project, Ruehle said.

Israel has not commented on the strike, but after a delay of several months Washington presented intelligence purporting to show the target was a reactor being built with North Korean help.

Iranian officials were not available for comment because of a national holiday. In general, Iran has been silent about the Syrian facility bombed by Israel. Syrian officials could not be reached for comment. But Syria has denied the facility was a nuclear plant, saying it was an unused military building. It has also denied any nuclear cooperation with North Korea or Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this year said U.N. inspectors had found processed uranium traces in samples taken from the site.

Syria has suggested the traces came from Israel ordnance used to hit the site, but the IAEA said the composition of the uranium made that unlikely. Israel has denied it was the source of the uranium.

Syria has told diplomats that it built a missile facility over the ruins of the site.

Comments (35)


1. Amir in Talabib said:

So it appears that Israel just blew a 1 billion worth of Iranian property.
No wonder Ahmidget and his mullahs are in a fury.
Wouldn’t you be ?
.

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March 19th, 2009, 8:54 pm

 

2. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

So it appears that Israel just blew a 1 billion worth of Iranian property.
No wonder Ahmidget and his mullahs are in a fury.
Wouldn’t you be ?
.

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March 19th, 2009, 8:55 pm

 

3. Shai said:

Amir,

If you were Syria, would you aspire to nuclear capabilities? If not, why not? And if yes, would you do so overtly?

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March 19th, 2009, 9:02 pm

 

4. AIG said:

Shai,

I understand that based on the intelligence you would not have bombed the site right? And if you would have bombed it, what is your point anyway? The point is that you don’t have a point. Who cares what the Syrian point of view is? Israel has to act according to its interests and Syria should act according to its interests.

Given that it would be very difficult to hide a nuclear project, Syria in my opinion made a grave mistake for which it will pay dearly.

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March 19th, 2009, 9:50 pm

 

5. qunfuz said:

I’m glad to see that Amir is using the rightful Arab name for the city of Tal Abib.

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March 19th, 2009, 9:56 pm

 

6. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Shai,

Of course if I’m Syria, I would do that in secret.
Just like Israel ( “textile” facility in Dimona anybody ? )…

QUNFUZ,

As an individual who is part of the people, who named most of the
geography of our (at odds) Middle-East:
Urdun, Lubnan, Masr, Arab, Yamen, Dimashk… and many many more
( All, first appear in Jewish scriptures, long before the birth of the first Muslim ),
I’m allowing myself (as a gesture), to nickname my darling city,
that BTW is celebrating 100 proud years.. 1909-2009.

Happy birthday, Talabib .. !!!
.

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March 20th, 2009, 12:26 am

 

7. norman said:

Israel should be at notice that even if they destroyed a Syrian Nuclear plan , Syria and others will rebuild new ones , and sooner or later they become Nuclear power and at that time Israel will not have the same powerful position that it has now and their chances of survival will become less and less , sometime i wounder if the people that are planing the Israeli policy are the Christian fundamentalists that want Armageddon and the converging of Jews to Christianity , Israel is sure going in that direction.

And that is my take.

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March 20th, 2009, 12:31 am

 

8. Trip Fantasy said:

Israel sent a 12-man commando unit in two helicopters to the site in August 2007 to take photographs and soil samples

Just like the story that Imad Mughniya’s assassins infiltrated Syria via Iraq, this is laughable. Most of the rest of the story is plausible, but there’s simply no way that this commandos/helicopters thing happened.

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March 20th, 2009, 12:40 am

 

9. LeoLeoni said:

Dear Norman,

You make “building-a-nuclear-reactor” sound like building a playground. It takes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and a very long time and effort to build. There are other priorities for using those resources, time, and effort and that is by investing in our people, in our educational system, our schools and universities, in reforming our economic and political system, the healthcare, fighting corruption and nepotism, etc..
Going after the “bomb” will not solve any of our problems in anyway, in reality, it is counter-productive, as it will bring the whole international community against us and weaken our relationships with our neighbors. After all, we did sign the non-proliferation treaty.

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March 20th, 2009, 1:12 am

 

10. Antoun Issa said:

I agree with Leoleoni.

There’s several holes in the article, the main one of which is:

“Other sources have suggested that the reactor might have been large enough to make about one nuclear weapon’s worth of plutonium a year.”

If it is so easy to obtain plutonium, and so easy to keep it clandestine (as this article suggests, the US and Israel apparently had no idea about it), then Iran would’ve had a bomb yesterday.

Secondly, why would a GFC-hit Iran spend more than $1 billion to make Syria a nuclear power? This defies the logic of the use of nuclear power as a deterrent. Iran wants to be a nuclear power in order to raise its stakes in the balance of power in the Middle East, and also to deter Israel/US or any potential enemy of repeating an Iraq-like invasion down the track.

By going so far as to making Syria a nuclear power (and extraordinarily pay entirely for the project) counters those ambitions, and reduces Iranian clout in the region. Iran uses Syria as a conduit to promote its power in the region, it doesn’t want to see Syria become powerful enough to make autonomous decisions and perhaps challenge Iran’s position. A nuclear Syria would indeed help Damascus stand on its own two feet, without the need of milking Tehran, Moscow or Washington.

It’s a flawed article.

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March 20th, 2009, 1:48 am

 

11. norman said:

Dear Leoleoni,

The only way to move forward in the Middle East and for Syria on all these fronts that i think are very important is to have peace , The only way to have peace is for Israel to fear destruction , The Bomb will do that , not to destroy Israel or anybody but to get our rights.

That does not mean that we should not work on our education , health care politecal reform , economic and judicial reform.

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March 20th, 2009, 1:51 am

 

12. Friend in America said:

For those who are or are not familiar with Hans Ruehle, he is a foremost analyist in wmd terrorism. One of the most respected in the E.U. and elsewhere in the world. He is very thorough and does not publish until he is satisfied with the accuracy of his writing.

Most of the facts in his article were published on this site in the fall of 2007, except the account of the defector. How Ruehle obtained that information will remain a mystery. Ruehle did not mention the deaths of North Korean nuclear technicians at the site. One does not need “inside” intelligence to recognize Iran as the financier. Construction of a nuclear plant and manufacture of nuclear materials is very expensive, more expensive than Syria’s economy can bear, and which other foreign financier could there be other than Iran?
The only remaining link to be disclosed is the reasoning behind Damascus’s decision to pursue this adventure. It is hard to imagine its risk assessment. The negatives are so apparent. But it appears there are better decisions today in Damascus.
Syria needs more transparency in its government, not only to its citizens but internationally. Transparency would be a major step in becoming the significant player on the international scene that it desires. Let’s hope it will occur.

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March 20th, 2009, 2:07 am

 

13. Antoun Issa said:

Friend of America,

You mention the reasoning behind Syria’s apparent pursuit of acquiring nuclear technology, but what is the reasoning behind Iran financing another state in its regional sphere to have nuclear capabilities?

The logic doesn’t add up.

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March 20th, 2009, 2:45 am

 

14. majid said:

ANTOUN ISSA said “Friend of America,

You mention the reasoning behind Syria’s apparent pursuit of acquiring nuclear technology, but what is the reasoning behind Iran financing another state in its regional sphere to have nuclear capabilities?

The logic doesn’t add up.”

O’ no. The logic adds up perfectly. Knowing that Iranian RG’s are actually in control of the upper echelon of security in Syria gives Iran enough logic to build such facility. Actually, Bashar cannot take any major decision without approval from Khamenei. Therefore, dispersing Iranian nuclear resources around the region would fit perfectly into Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Isn’t that what they currently do inside Iran with their own facilities. That makes a lightening strike all the more impossible. Wouldn’t it? I wouldn’t be surprised if It turns out some time in the future that a similar facility is being built by Iran in Sudan.

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March 20th, 2009, 3:39 am

 

15. Akbar Palace said:

Syria had a nuclear facility??

Practically a whole year transpired after the destruction of the nuclear facility, and still, most SC commentators denied Syria ever had one (including Professor Josh and his side-kick Alex).

Today, some SC participants continue to believe this.

Fox News is owned by AIPAC;)

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March 20th, 2009, 10:47 am

 

16. Akbar Palace said:

More Topics on Jewish Mythology:

1.) Some non-Jews are more pro-Israel than Jews.

2.) Some non-Jews like Chinese food.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1237392665709&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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March 20th, 2009, 1:36 pm

 

17. jad said:

1.) LOTS of non-Palestinians (even some Jews) are more pro-Palestine than Palestinians.

http://irish4palestine.wordpress.com
http://desertpeace.wordpress.com
http://www.normanfinkelstein.com
http://www.nkusa.org

more?

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March 20th, 2009, 2:31 pm

 

18. Akbar Palace said:

LOTS of non-Palestinians (even some Jews) are more pro-Palestine than Palestinians.

JAD,

Perhaps I missed something. I know there are “LOTS” of non-Palestinians and Jews who are pro-Palestine …

http://palsolidarity.org/

http://palestinethinktank.com/2009/01/24/interview-with-adam-shapiro-co-founder-of-the-ism/

http://www.nkusa.org/activities/demonstrations/2005Aug15unny.cfm

http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2009/01/iranian-jews-demonstrate-against-israel.html

http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/publish/article_776.shtml

http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000385.html

… but how do you know these “non-Palestinians (even some Jews) are MORE pro-Palestine than Palestinians”.?

How did you reach this conclusion?

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March 20th, 2009, 2:49 pm

 

19. jad said:

I used your method silly…

Why don’t you stop repeat ‘quoting’ what is already written one line before your comments.
If you are trying to make your comments seems longer that doesn’t make you look smarter, it does the opposite.

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March 20th, 2009, 2:56 pm

 

20. Akbar Palace said:

Ghosts that won’t go away:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3689304,00.html

JAD,

Apparently it didn’t work. My post was factual, and yours wasn’t.

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March 20th, 2009, 2:57 pm

 

21. jad said:

Sure AP, everything you write is a fact, especially when you tell us about Palestinian’s villa in Israel.

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March 20th, 2009, 3:23 pm

 

22. Akbar Palace said:

Sure AP, everything you write is a fact, especially when you tell us about Palestinian’s villa in Israel.

JAD,

With the advent of the Internet Superhighway, I see you’ve finally caught up with my lies and distortions.

http://www.umelfahemgallery.org/galleryen/MSGallery.asp?catid=108

BTW – you didn’t answer my question about how you determined some “non-Palestinians (even some Jews) are MORE pro-Palestine than Palestinians”.

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March 20th, 2009, 4:28 pm

 

23. majid said:

AP,
You should produce more of these pictures as in your link comment #22. It’s doubtful however it will convince the SC crowd of the benefits of the one-state solution. But it is better than not trying. Sixty years from today you could come back and say I told you so.

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March 20th, 2009, 5:25 pm

 

24. Off the Wall said:

Majid
I am more than convinced with the one state solution, but not on AP’s model. You seem to not think of what you have been reading. Many here have recognized that the two state solution is dead, Israel killed it long time a go, not out of humanitarian point but out of lust for land and cowardliness in facing zealot settlers. Unlike my dear friend Shai, who still believe in it as an interim option, I am not sure it can be resuscitated any longer.

Can you see the polling bar on the top left? it says 52% believe that the two state solution is not feasible any longer. I guess you rush to throw in your emotional attachment before even bothering to look at realities.

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March 20th, 2009, 6:00 pm

 

25. jad said:

I’ll choose distortion over lie, which is more obvious in your case.
I prefer not to waste my time answering any of your meaningless and endless questions, I’d rather make fun of them, pure intentional.

By the way could you please keep quoting the one line I write, I already feel like Jean Jacque Rousseau, Shakespeare and Winston Churchill when you quote me, I’m flattered, thank you.

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March 20th, 2009, 6:31 pm

 

26. SimoHurtta said:

Indeed the logic of that new nuclear site story doesn’t add up. Why on earth would Iran invest to nuclear weapon project in Syria? Invest such sums in a foreign country to a reactor which is located near the border and in almost open desert. Iranians are not stupid. Why should they risk to create a nuclear weapon program for an other country which could one/any day turn against Iran after a successful regime chance. As clever as USA would finance a equal reactor + weapon program build on British technology in Mexico.

The other point which makes it somewhat difficult to believe to that nuclear reactor story is this soil sample taking by Israeli commandos. A reactor building and its surrounding hardly becomes radioactive before the reactor is loaded and functioning. Syrians would not be so crazy that they would store the valuable fuel rods on a building site for months or even weeks. So what do the soil samples of a reactor building site before it is operating tell? Basically nothing much more than a normal geological “report” from the region. Everybody can imagine what the “results” with radiation had been if Israelis had bombed a functioning reactor. That amount of radiation could not been hiden.

Who is Hans Rühle and from where did he get his information? The man is 70 years old and has obviously been retired for a relative long time. In the end quarter of 2008 he wrote an piece “Eine Bomb zu Weinachten” (a bomb for Christmas) in Sûddeutschen Zeitung
http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/255/315148/text/

This old man obviously has no own independent intelligence gathering organization and so is completely reliable what other “interested parties” tell him. And he writes what others tell and gets paid for that. In the end what Rûhle has no means to verify if he was told the truth. So he can’t tell is he used to spread pure propaganda. His opinions and style of story telling seem to represent those of the neocons in USA and Israel. His original article in Neue Zürcher Zeitung is more like a “agent story”. A collection of previous claims + some new ones without reliable sources. No reporter would dare to publish such a story without mentioning sources and checking some facts. A paid “expert” can.

The claim that North Korea provided the technology, Iran the money and Syria the territory is difficult to believe. Why Syria, which is so close to Israel and US occupied Iraq? Iran is a much bigger country and has a more suitable “landscape” to hide such a reactor. The “safest” and fastest way for all would have been that North Korea would have sold ready plutonium.

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March 20th, 2009, 7:16 pm

 

27. majid said:

OTW said, “Majid
I am more than convinced with the one state solution, but not on AP’s model. You seem to not think of what you have been reading”

Thanks for the correction. However, would you kindly spell out the alternative model you have in mind? and please make it as brief as possible like in a bullet-like format. We’re not interested in psychonalytical theories.

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March 20th, 2009, 7:53 pm

 

28. Off the Wall said:

Amir in Tal Aviv. Tal Abib, or what ever the place will be called in a 1000 years from today.

Your assertion of biblical names proves only that these cities and civilizations and thriving cultures existed in the region far long before the Israelites for these names to be mentioned in the bible. The bible may be credited for preserving the names, but so can the earlier clay tablets which predate the bible and which tell the stories retold in the Torah and later in the Quran. Please do not play the bible here, the notion of biblical rights is mute to the ongoing tragedy. As hard as it may be, we all need to be more creative than getting stuck in these issues. They brought nothing but pain for thousands of years. What justifies Israel existence nowadays is not the bible, it is the fact that it exists and that living, breathing, love making, hard working people, a majority of whom were born there, now live there and call it home. It is the same reason that justifies the existence of Syria, Lebanon, or any other country. Any call to force an exceptional reason for existence will fail over the long term. AP’s notes from his recent visit to Israel only highlights the inevitability of failure for exceptionalism. Every civilization and empire believed in their exceptional mission and all they got was the dust gathering over their ruins. What we got from them are baggages of misery in the form of myths that we try to relive and blessing in the form of art and the seeds of our knowledge, science, and oddly enough literature.

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March 20th, 2009, 9:31 pm

 

29. epppie said:

I find it strangely convenient that this report would come out now, just after the election of a super-hardline government in Israel that is pushing for an attack on Iran, and just ahead of the new Iran NIE, due out soon: I think this is part of a propaganda push for war against Iran.

And I wonder if it’s true. I think it’s a very dangerous world where one country, Israel, can freely attack another country, Syria, and it’s the attacked country that somehow is considered guilty until proven innocent, and Israel, on the other hand, is not expected to offer any proof whatsoever that it’s attack on another country was justified and necessary.

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March 20th, 2009, 11:21 pm

 

30. Akbar Palace said:

I am more than convinced with the one state solution, but not on AP’s model. … Can you see the polling bar on the top left? it says 52% believe that the two state solution is not feasible any longer.

OTW, Majid,

You may not have understood my point, so I will reiterate them.

The “2 State” solution isn’t dead; it is what we have right now as we speak, despite a signed agreement. It is defacto, a 2 State solution.

I can’t repredict what the borders with look like in the future, but as it stands, there could be a one state solution if the Arab population climbs higher than the Jewish population. However, I can’t say if this will take place or if Israel will just get smaller or if some war will take place where one side will try to make a change militarily.

I think it’s a very dangerous world where one country, Israel, can freely attack another country, Syria, and it’s the attacked country that somehow is considered guilty until proven innocent, and Israel, on the other hand, is not expected to offer any proof whatsoever that it’s attack on another country was justified and necessary.

Epppie,

Is it only a “dangerous world” when Israel attacks an enemy state or is it also a “dangerous world” when some other country attacks an enemy state. You make it sound as if Israel is the only country at war in the world.

Also, you didn’t mention Iran’s refusal to accept inspectors (ala Saddam Hussein), their snubbing of the IAEA, their threats against Israel, and their arming terrorist organizations.

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March 21st, 2009, 3:07 pm

 

31. Akbar Palace said:

I am more than convinced with the one state solution, but not on AP’s model.

OTW,

I don’t recall presenting a “model”. All I know is that eventually, Israel will not be a jewish state forever. I think it will turn majority Arab sometime this century, if not earlier.

I can’t predict the future.

Presently, (IMHO) a defacto 2-state solution is already in effect.

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March 21st, 2009, 4:30 pm

 

32. Shai said:

AP says: “Presently, (IMHO) a defacto 2-state solution is already in effect.”

That’s funny, I guess when you say “state” you don’t mean “sovereign state”, do you? Because last time I checked, the Palestinian “state” (your 2nd-state), had about 0% sovereignty and was under 100% Israeli Occupation. Interesting 2-state solution you’re offering them…

This weekend we went with some friends down to Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea. We drove through Jerusalem, around Ma’ale Adumim, and down towards Jericho and then the Dead Sea. The road is almost European-like. Very new, very fast, and very few Palestinian cars… What strikes anyone driving along that road, of course, is the Berlin-wall erected by Israel to “protect” Israeli Jews from Arab neighborhoods. And beyond the wall, are endless barbed wires all along the road. For a minute there, a driver (such as myself) wonders which side is the prison, because it is obvious these precautions are designed to keep inmates in, and strangers out. But then it becomes clear again, the prison is not on the driver’s side.

So sure AP, you can call that prison a “2nd state”, and I’ll call you “an Egyptian”. And do you know why Egyptian? Because, like the corny joke goes, “All Egyptians live in denial (the Nile)”…

Funny, isn’t it, how I described the Berlin-wall and barbed wire as reminding me of a prison, whereas you mentioned (in the story about your visit to Israel) that it was put up to protect Jews from being shot… An interesting difference in conceptualization, isn’t it? 🙂

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March 21st, 2009, 7:40 pm

 

33. ariadna said:

ANTOUN ISSA said: Friend of America, You mention the reasoning behind Syria’s apparent pursuit of acquiring nuclear technology, but what is the reasoning behind Iran financing another state in its regional sphere to have nuclear capabilities?The logic doesn’t add up.

Allow me to explain. Iran is behind everything. Did you know that Iran is arming Hamas? Puzzling there is only the fact that Hamas chooses to discard those fine Iranian weapons and continue to manufacture their own molotov cocktails which they shoot by slingshot, but then one never understands Hamas anyway.
If Israel bombs a site in Syria it follows that Syria was working on nuclear weapons or else Israel wouldn’t have bombed it, right?
OK, now the next logical step: the Axis of Evil has to have three components. Iraq is gone, there is only Iran and N Korea left. So you have to add Syria. But most important of all, Iran must be at the center because it is the only boulder left in the middle of the road blocking the merkavas’ victorious march toward zionist supremacy in the region. Got it now?

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March 23rd, 2009, 12:56 am

 
 

35. Yossi said:

No real expert is sure the site near Halabyia was a nuclear reactor, however the propaganda campaign continues to grind on. There are many contra-indications to the nuclear theory and at least one ground photo released by the CIA was proved a fake. You wouldn’t buy a used car from these people so why buy a nuclear reactor?

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March 30th, 2009, 3:17 pm

 

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