“N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility” By Glenn Kessler

N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2007; Page A12

North Korea may be cooperating with Syria on some sort of nuclear facility in Syria, according to new intelligence the United States has gathered over the past six months, sources said. The evidence, said to come primarily from Israel, includes dramatic satellite imagery that led some U.S. officials to believe that the facility could be used to produce material for nuclear weapons.

The new information, particularly images received in the past 30 days, has been restricted to a few senior officials under the instructions of national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, leaving many in the intelligence community unaware of it or uncertain of its significance, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Some cautioned that initial reports of suspicious activity are frequently reevaluated over time and were skeptical that North Korea and Syria, which have cooperated on missile technology, would have a joint venture in the nuclear arena.

A White House spokesman and the Israeli Embassy declined to comment yesterday after several days of inquiries. A Syrian Embassy spokesman said he could not immediately provide a statement.

The new intelligence comes at an awkward moment for the Bush administration, which since the beginning of the year has pursued an agreement with North Korea on ending its nuclear weapons programs. U.S. and North Korean officials held talks last month in Geneva on the steps needed to normalize relations, and this week a delegation of U.S., Russian and Chinese experts visited North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility to consider ways to disable it. The New York Times first reported on the intelligence linking North Korea and Syria yesterday.

At the Geneva talks, North Korea indicated a willingness to satisfy U.S. questions about an alleged uranium-enrichment program that started the crisis over its nuclear ambitions, the sources said. U.S. officials have said that North Korean officials acknowledged the program in 2002, but Pyongyang subsequently denied doing so. In the meantime, it restarted a plutonium facility at Yongbyon and harvested enough weapons-grade material for as many as 10 nuclear weapons. In October, it tested a nuclear device.

In talks in Beijing in March 2003, a North Korean official pulled aside his American counterpart and threatened to "transfer" nuclear material to other countries. President Bush has said that passing North Korean nuclear technology to other parties would cross the line.

Israel conducted a mysterious raid last week against targets in Syria. The Israeli government has refused to divulge any details, but a former Israeli official said he had been told that it was an attack against a facility capable of making unconventional weapons.

Others have speculated that Israel was testing Syria's air defenses in preparation for a raid on Iran or that Israel was targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that the idea of a Hezbollah connection was ridiculous.

Syria has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty but has not agreed to an additional protocol that would allow for enhanced inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. GlobalSecurity.org, which offers information on weapons of mass destruction, said that "although Syria has long been cited as posing a nuclear proliferation risk, the country seems to have been too strapped for cash to get far."

Syria has a Chinese-supplied "miniature" research reactor at Dayr al-Hajar, but has been unable to obtain larger reactors because of international pressure on potential sellers.

John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a critic of the administration's dealings with North Korea, said that given North Korea's trade in missiles with Syria, it is "legitimate to ask questions about whether that cooperation extends on the nuclear side as well."

GENEVA (AFP) — New Syrian visa requirements on Iraqis have come into force, virtually halting the flow of Iraqi refugees through the main crossing between the two countries, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.

"For the first time in months, if not years, UNHCR field workers visiting the Syrian-Iraq border yesterday found the crossing point virtually empty," Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

"The regulations effectively mean there is no longer a safe place outside for Iraqis fleeing persecution and violence," he told journalists.

"An estimated 2,000 Iraqis flee their homes daily inside the country, so we are increasingly concerned about their fate as their options for safety are reduced," Redmond added.

Comments (27)


1. Alex said:

The nonsense started …

“Evidence coming primarily from Israel … then Stephen Hadley and his boys believe the facility could be used to produce material for nuclear weapons

And reporters quoting each other’s stories which all started from neocon and Israeli unreliable sources.

The Syrians should produce information that reporters can use in their stories, otherwise those reporters will continue quoting anonymous US and Israeli officials about Syria’s evil nuclear activities.

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September 13th, 2007, 4:39 am

 

2. Alex said:


وزير الإعلام السوري لـ«الشرق الأوسط»: لا تستعجلونا واتهامات المواد النووية بدعة جديدة

مسؤول أميركي: عمليات استطلاع جوي إسرائيلي لمواقع سورية مشتبهة

لندن: فاطمة العيساوي
وصف وزير الاعلام السوري محسن بلال اتهام مسؤولين اميركيين باستخدام أراضي سورية لتخزين معدات نووية كورية شمالية في إطار تعاون نووي بين البلدين بأنه «بدعة جديدة ومحاولة للتغطية على المأزق الاسرائيلي» بعد الغارة التي لا تزال تل أبيب تلتزم الصمت حولها رغم تأكيد «البنتاغون» وقوعها. وفي تصريحات عبر الهاتف من دمشق، اكتفى وزير الإعلام السوري، محسن بلال، ردا على استفسار «الشرق الأوسط» حول تكتم دمشق على موقع وأهداف الغارة الإسرائيلية بالقول «الأمور تأتي في أوانها المناسب… لِمَ تستعجلوننا؟»

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September 13th, 2007, 5:38 am

 

3. ausamaa said:

Are we going nuts and paranoid because we can not deciphere a simple act of desperation initiated by the strategically-cornered and beaten-on-the-ground Israelies and Freinds at a hot cross-roads for them in the area’s history?

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September 13th, 2007, 6:03 am

 

4. Alex said:

Why does Syria need to have “nuclear” weapons? wouldn’t something like this meet their requirements?

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September 13th, 2007, 6:47 am

 

5. MSK said:

Josh,

the “North Korea nuclear connection” story is BS. At its best it’s John Bolton et al trying to put scupper the US-NK agreement, which he hates with a passion, and, for good measure, drop a pile of s*** on the Syrian regime.

So far, in all the hullaballoo, the best article has been today’s BBC piece “Israel’s Syria ‘raid’ remains a mystery” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6991718.stm) Everyone else should learn from Jonathan Marcus how to report on something without relying on rumors or spin-doctors.

On the story of “visas for Iraqis” – I am surprised that you never bothered to follow up on the fate of those few hundred Palestinians who’d been holed up at the Iraq-Syria border for more than half a year because Syria had refused them entry (despite letting 1.5 million Iraqis in).

–MSK*

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September 13th, 2007, 6:57 am

 

6. Richard Silverstein said:

I too think Kessler’s story sounds like more BS a la Iraq’s alleged WMD. Note the first sentence of his story with the attribution “sources said.” Who the hell are “sources?” Bushites? Israelis? His cleaning lady? It’s bad enough to allow source to be anonymous but this is ridiculous. You’ve got to provide some identifying info to allow us to judge the bona fides of the source. If you don’t do that then we’re justified in thinking the story is garbage.

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September 13th, 2007, 7:06 am

 

7. qunfuz said:

Joshua

I’m not an intelligence man, but it seems obvious that the nuclear story is rubbish. Does the fact that the Americans are talking about it increase the chances of war with Syria at the same time as a strike on Iran? Is the public being prepared for a strike on Syria? I’d really like to hear your considered opinion. (I know you don’t think a strike on Iran is likely. I think it is. There seems to be bipartisan support for it in the US. Israel wants to weaken Iran. Hizbullah is tied up by the depressing sectarian situation in Lebanon, and retaliating on Iran’s behalf will only weaken it politically at home. China won’t do much more than complain. France will keep quiet. The US regime calculates that weakening Iran is a necessary corrective movement to inadvertently strengthening it by removing the Afghan and Iraqi regimes. It also calculates that Iran’s ability to respond will be limited, so long as there is no ground invasion. Some of the US establishment would rather have the confrontation now because Bush is on his way out anyway, and he can be blamed for any negative repercussions.)

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September 13th, 2007, 9:03 am

 

8. b said:

Note how this “intelligence” was stovepiped.

The usual CIA analysts are “unaware” about it. From Israel to Bolton/Abrahms to Cheney/Hadley to the WaPo. We have seen that before.

How would one indentify anything nuclear but a reactor encasing on an airial picture? Impossible – and Syria is certainly not building a reactor (10-15 years, 1-2 billion).

This is “The Building of a Nuclear Syria Meme” (http://www.moonofalabama.org/2007/09/the-building-of.html) – from RPS/Ghadry through Bolton/Abrams to Cheney/Hadley.

“Justification” for an Israeli attack on Syria.

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September 13th, 2007, 10:05 am

 

9. blowback said:

Is this part of Cheney’s “rollout” for war on Iran!

They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this–they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”

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September 13th, 2007, 10:06 am

 
 

11. why-discuss said:

Again the WMD bs! I hope the neocons and the white-moustached Bolton find something else. I think they are out of ideas, they have tried the Al-Qaeda collusion with Iran, the infiltration of bad guys from Syria, the syrians troubling Lebanon and supporting ‘terrorist: Hamas and Hezbollah, now Syria’s WMD! They seem desperate to stop the increased power of Iran that would ultimately undermine the US influence on Iraq and the whole middle east and create an anti-Israel Iraq: US’s worst nightmare! I think the US (and surely Israel) would prefer to dismantle Iraq than to have an united Iraq that is pro-Iranian and anti-Israel!

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September 13th, 2007, 11:41 am

 

12. SimoHurtta said:

The usual CIA analysts are “unaware” about it. From Israel to Bolton/Abrahms to Cheney/Hadley to the WaPo. We have seen that before.

History always repeats itself twice: first time as tragedy, second time as farce. – Karl Marx

Sadly this farce will be a major tragedy to the whole world and especially to USA. Seems that the US regime is nowadays doing everything it can to ruin USA’s economy. General Custer must have been the military idol of those lunatics in Washington. Arrogance and bad intelligence combined with pure stupidity is a dangerous combination.

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September 13th, 2007, 11:57 am

 

13. Akbar Palace said:

I think they are out of ideas, they have tried the Al-Qaeda collusion with Iran, the infiltration of bad guys from Syria, the syrians troubling Lebanon and supporting ‘terrorist: Hamas and Hezbollah, now Syria’s WMD!

Why-Discuss,

Yes, al-Queda, Hamas and Hezbollah get their money, missiles, and IEDs from K-Mart. Of course.

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September 13th, 2007, 11:58 am

 

14. Antoun said:

I imagine all of us, including the Arab and Israeli media, have been engaged in a flurry trying to decipher what on earth occurred last week.

And if these reports and stories demonstrate anything … it’s that we still have no clue.

What did Israel hit or aim to hit last week? Why? Why has the Israel, US and Syria remain tight-lipped about it? Sure when Israel succeeds something, they parade about it for weeks. When Syria succeeds against Israel, it too parades about it for weeks.

So if no one’s parading, what happened?

The closest we got was Josh’s assessment of the type of fighter craft used, which assures us that Israel was intending to strike something. Why else would it loop around Syria from the north and fly to a town right next to the Iraqi border?

It didn’t need such a long flight to carry out surveillance tasks. Israel and the US have much more sophisticated technology, including satellites and reconnaissance flights, to cover Syria.

We have all concluded that the nuclear story is rubbish. Why would Syria build or store nuclear weapons next to the Iraqi border? It is simply a ridiculous call. Another theory was that it was to prevent arm shipment to Hizballah. If the depot was located next to the Iraqi border, that suggests that it would’ve been smuggled through Iraq. Why would Syria and Iran all of a sudden smuggle weapons to Hizballah via Iraq when for 30 years it has used alternative routes?

Another theory was that Ehud Barak made the call to improve his domestic standing. But seeing how the Israeli government has tried to keep it top secret, I doubt he’s really doing it for the polls.

So none of the pieces seem to fit the puzzle. What could have happened that has kept both countries, Israel and Syria, silent on the details?

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September 13th, 2007, 12:01 pm

 

15. norman said:

SYRIA’S NUCLEAR THREATS
ISRAEL DESTROYS BASE
By ANDY SOLTIS
September 13, 2007 — Israel “completely destroyed” a long-range-missile base in Syria, and Israeli leaders also suspect Syria and Iran are building nuclear arms with the help of North Korea, it was reported yesterday.

The Israelis have refused comment about the mysterious raid last week but new details emerged about the attack that has prompted Syria to call up army reserves and consider military retaliation, according to reports.

An Israeli-Arab newspaper, a-Sinara, said the Israeli air force blasted a joint Iranian-Syrian missile base in northern Syria.

The base, financed by Iran, appeared to be “completely destroyed,” the newspaper said.

U.S. officials confirmed the airstrike, reportedly carried out by five Israeli jets. But one official said reports of the target were “confused.”

CNN said Tuesday the target was a large amount of weapons en route from Iran to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

Israeli fought a bitter war with Hezbollah last year and blames Iran for supplying the guerrillas with arms and ammunition transferred through Syria.

It was reported yesterday that Israel has also conducted reconnaissance flights over Syria to find nuclear facilities.

The facilities were allegedly supplied with atomic material that North Korea developed before it agreed under U.S. pressure to shut down its nuclear program.

U.S. officials reportedly share the Israeli concern. “The suspicion is that North Korea is outsourcing uranium enrichment to Damascus,” an American diplomatic source told Reuters.

North Korea yesterday denounced the Israeli raid as a “dangerous provocation,” but the next step is expected from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Kuwaiti-based newspaper Al-Jareeda said Assad’s brother-in-law met recently with Hezbollah and Hamas officials to draw up retaliation plans and is leading the pressure on Assad.

The Syrian army has begun calling up reservists in response to Israel, the newspaper said.

Syria has issued diplomatic protests over the airstrike at the United Nations but indicated it would go beyond words.

“The Syrian response has not come,” the nation’s U.N. envoy, Bashar al-Jaafari, told BBC Arabic.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres called the episode “spilt milk” – but gave no details of what happened. CNN quoted sources as saying Israeli officials are “very happy” with the airstrike. With Post Wire Services

andy.soltis@nypost.com

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September 13th, 2007, 12:35 pm

 

16. Akbar Palace said:

Antoun asks:

What could have happened that has kept both countries, Israel and Syria, silent on the details?

From Israel’s point-of-view:

How about the sensitivity and political implications of flying over Turkey and Syria’s airspace and attacking a suspected weapon site?

From Syria’s point-of-view:

How about not admitting what the “site” and intended target was?

Does this answer your question? Is this issue really that complicated?

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September 13th, 2007, 1:31 pm

 

17. SimoHurtta said:

This is getting “funnier” hour by hour. USA says based on Israeli intelligence, Israelis say based on Turkish intelligence. And people in Kuwait know the facts. 🙂

Turkish intelligence assisted IDF in attack on Syria – report

Kuwaiti newspaper says Turkish intelligence provided Israel with information on targets Air Force allegedly attacked last week without Turkish government’s authorization

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September 13th, 2007, 2:33 pm

 

18. why-discuss said:

Akbar
Yes, al-Queda, Hamas and Hezbollah get their money, missiles, and IEDs from K-Mart. Of course.

..and Israel is getting its billions of dollars , its WMD and its militay power from Disneyland?

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September 13th, 2007, 3:14 pm

 

19. Alex said:

Akbar,

Sometimes you sound like a 3-year old republican.

“Yes, al-Queda, Hamas and Hezbollah get their money, missiles, and IEDs from K-Mart. Of course.”

You think Syria has a border with Gaza?!

Hamas gets its weapons from Egypt and it gets its money mostly from private donations from the rich Arab states …. basically from “Arab moderates” … why don’t you go after those countries instead?

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September 13th, 2007, 4:07 pm

 

20. IsraeliGuy said:

A reply to Antoun’s points:

“Sure when Israel succeeds something, they parade about it for weeks. When Syria succeeds against Israel, it too parades about it for weeks.”

Israel probably doesn’t want to formally admit that it attacked Syria.
Such an admission, may have repercussions that it doesn’t want to face.

It will immediately cut the silence that you see from the Arab leaders, the Europeans and almost everybody else.

Aside from Iran and North Korea, almost nobody else it condemning this action that happened or maybe “didn’t happen”…

It will turn it from a Syrian claim to an undeniable fact.
The Arab leaders will then have to speak and stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria – something that they obviously don’t want to do.

The fact that everybody know what happened, in general lines, serves Israel’s purposes.
It can eat the cake and still leave it whole.

“We have all concluded that the nuclear story is rubbish. Why would Syria build or store nuclear weapons next to the Iraqi border? It is simply a ridiculous call.”

It was a nuclear related target.
I have no doubt that the details will leak gradually.
So many people in so many capitals know exactly what happened.

Many will wish to increase the Syrian humiliation and push Syria to a strong military response against Israel.

A war between Israel and Syria serves many in the world, including quite a few Arab leaders that want to see Assad bleed (or blink).

I don’t think we’ll have to wait long before more details will emerge.

“Another theory was that Ehud Barak made the call to improve his domestic standing. But seeing how the Israeli government has tried to keep it top secret, I doubt he’s really doing it for the polls.”

Not true.

In order to improve his domestic standing, the Israeli public only needs to know that Barak lead a successful operation against Syria.

The hush-hush policy only increases the positive political effect on Barak.
Many Israelis probably think to themselves: “Wow, if there’s such a total silence, we must have hit something big…”.

I’m sure we’ll see some fresh polls soon.

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September 13th, 2007, 4:09 pm

 

21. Alex said:

SimoHurtta,

While I do not trust most of the information related to Syria in “Arab moderates” owned newspapers, the Kuwaiti story of alleged cooperation that Israel got from some in Turkish intelligence is interesting because it illustrates the bizarre situation we are in.

The united states, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, the Palestinians, the Iraqis … are all nations split in two or more camps. Most of the players in the middle east are not speaking and moving in one clear direction. In addition to the obvious democrats opposed to this administration’s Iraq war, we hear that many in the state department or the CIA who are leaking things to the press because they are against the administration’s policies in the middle east. Israel coalition governments are made of the extreme right all the way to the left. Turkey has the secular army’s leadership waiting for the right moment to get rid of the moderate Islamic government… Lebanon hopelessly divided, Iraq in a civil war, the Palestinians killing each other …

As far as Syria is concerned, all those countries have pro and anti Syria components … leaving only Iran as the solid ally that Syria can depend on. Yet everyone wonders why Syria is getting close to Iran.

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September 13th, 2007, 4:35 pm

 

22. Akbar Palace said:

Why-Discuss replies:

..and Israel is getting its billions of dollars , its WMD and its militay power from Disneyland?

Why-Discuss,

The issue wasn’t where Israel was getting their weapons (Israel isn’t a terrorist organization). The issue you brought up was the that “Holier-than-thou” Iran and Syria don’t arm and fund terrorist organizations:

I think they are out of ideas, they have tried the Al-Qaeda collusion with Iran, the infiltration of bad guys from Syria troubling Lebanon and supporting ‘terrorist: Hamas and Hezbollah, now Syria’s WMD!

Typical terror-apologetics…

IsraeliGuy said:

It was a nuclear related target.

It can’t be! The forum apologists here said so! Syria, Iran and their client terrorist friends only want peace!

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September 13th, 2007, 4:38 pm

 

23. Observer said:

I truly could not stop laughing at this new story. Now North Korea is going to let another country hide its nuclear program while it agrees to dismantle the one it has and this is in the most secretive and closed of all countries. It will move the facility right next to 168 000 US troops next door in Iraq. The Syrians have agreed to put the target sign on their forehead by doing so and making the US/EU/Israel fully justified in taking them back to the stone age. The only sad matter is that the US public will believe the story as the recent NYT poll showed that fully 33 percent of all Americans and 47 percent of all Republicans believe that Saddam was directly responsible for 9/11 and this was conducted in 2007.

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September 13th, 2007, 4:46 pm

 

24. why-discuss said:

Akbar

Israel isn’t a terrorist organization
By occupying illegally territories in defiance of the numerous UN security resolutions, Israel is perceived rather as a terrorist state who deserves to be resisted by any means, since it is ignoring bluntly all the diplomatic pressures to stop the illegal occupation of palestinian territories..
Instead, it is getting billions of dollars for “military development” and is developping illegally WMD!

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September 13th, 2007, 7:18 pm

 

25. claeskrantz.com | Anyone remember the Iraqi WMDs? said:

[…] SyriaComment – Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » “N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility” By Glenn Kessler […]

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September 13th, 2007, 10:07 pm

 

26. Antoun said:

In response to Akbar’s comments,

Let every journalist in the world stop their work now and refer to Akbar’s simple take on the situation. How could we all have got it wrong?

Since when did Israel ever care about the “sensitivity” of flying and attacking targets in Syria?

Israeliguy,

The media is pushing hard, both in Israel and the Arab world, to get to the bottom of this. I believe it will only be a matter of time before someone cracks and spills the beans. I, and I hope no one else, will resign themselves to accept the primitive assumptions coming up from the likes of Akbar, or the “fill-the-gap” excuses given aplenty by the US and Israel.

Even if the nuclear story had a ring to it (North Korea’s noted opposition to the attack), why would Syria be so stupid to place any nuclear-related material next to the Iraqi border?

As I said, many pieces do not fit the puzzle.

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September 13th, 2007, 11:12 pm

 

27. dan said:

Israeli Guy:

All very interesting, but could you explain to me the difference between this instance and the IAF bombing of what it described as terrorist targets in Syria a couple of years back, which it had little difficulty in acknowledging – that would equally seem to fall within your criteria for having repercussions that it might wish to avoid. On the scale of globally acceptable military rationales, the speculative one that you’re punting rates far, far higher than visibly bombing buildings near Damascus.

Furthermore, given that Syria is a signatory to the NNPT, where’s the IAEA/regulatory/diplomatic pressure track in all this – if there’s a nuclear-related site that’s at the heart of this, and given the endless fixation of the Bush administration with the nexus of evilness and mushroom clouds, why is there nothing on this track? It stretches credibility that the Bush administration would not seize on this as an opportunity to pressurise and isolate Syria further – especially as bombing a nuclear site is going to involve releasing very detectable traces of evidence.

Could you also please explain what you mean by a nuclear related target – as this could encompass anything from a reactor to a factory making smoke detectors to a “secret” waste-storage site for material from Syria’s research reactor ( although the latter possibility would be a stretch given IAEA safeguards ).

Whilst it’s all very “sexy” for cognoscenti such as yourself to assert that “everyone” knows what happened, what everyone actually knows is that the IAF entered Syrian airspace – not exactly an uncommon event – and that the Syrians may have fired at them – an extremely uncommon event if true; beyond that, we know nothing. The only thing that we can see is that there is one hell of a disinformational/propaganda whirl going on.

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September 14th, 2007, 1:55 pm

 

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