Nukes or Peace?

Today both the LA Times and The Wall Street Journal, which places the story on the front page, explain that the CIA is going to tell US lawmakers that it believes Syria was developing a reactor that would be capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons but was destroyed before it could do so.  But as Jay Solomon wrote in yesterday's version of his WSJ article:

Less conclusive, however, is any firm evidence that Syria was attempting to develop nuclear weapons, according to the U.S. official. "People will probably spin this information in whatever direction they want," the official said.

By contrast, the BBC and Bloomberg are running stories explaining that Israel is "Willing to Return the Golan Heights." The point of this story is not that real peace talks are going on between Israel and Syria, but that Olmert has evidently told Turkey's Erdogan that in a future agreement, Israel would be willing to relinquish the entire Golan. Whether that is to a "Peace Park, we do not know. We also do not know what prerequisites went with the story. Israel has been adamant about Syria cutting relations with Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas as a precondition for such talks.


Syria seems to be making this public at this time because it does not want secret talks and insists that what contacts take place between Israel and Syria be official and open. Syria wants Israel to break the US backed isolation policy toward Syria as a sign of good faith. 

One analyst in Washington does not believe this is more than posturing by both sides. He writes:

No durable peace deal between the Israelis and the Syrians is possible without US endorsement. As much as I would like to believe this story, it's a nonstarter. To say the least, the Turks cannot finance the deal, only the US can. The Israelis will ask for a security package from Washington worth more than $20 billion.

Here are the articles: 

April 23 (Bloomberg) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Syrian government that Israel's premier, Ehud Olmert, has agreed to return all of the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace, Syria's state-controlled Cham Press said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirmed this week that his country exchanged messages with Israel via third parties to explore the possibility of resuming peace talks. Cham Press, which cited unidentified diplomatic officials for the report on Erdogan, didn't provide details.

Erdogan called the Syrian president yesterday and relayed the same message from Israel, Al-Watan reported from Damascus. The daily didn't provide additional information.

Olmert told Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper last week that the two countries clarified what they expect from a potential peace accord. Each side now understands what the other wants, Olmert said. Syria broke off negotiations on a peace treaty with Israel in 2000 after the two sides were unable to resolve their dispute over the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967.

Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, said today there was “nothing new to say,'' when asked about peace talks with Syria. “I can only refer you to what the prime minister said in interviews published only a few days ago in Israeli newspapers. We know what the Syrians expect from us and the Syrians know what we expect from them.''

“There are efforts exerted in this direction,'' Assad said during a meeting with officials from his ruling Baath Party, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

Erdogan will be visiting Syria April 26, his spokesman, Akif Beki, said in a telephone interview today. He declined to provide details about the visit.

Secret Talks

“Syria rejects secret talks or contacts with Israel,'' SANA cited Assad as saying. “Anything Syria does in this regard will be announced to the public.''

Negotiations must be serious and “in compliance with United Nations resolutions,'' Assad added. “Israel knows well what is accepted and not accepted by Syria.''

Tensions between the two countries have grown since Israeli forces fought a 34-day conflict in Lebanon in 2006 with the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah that is backed by Syria and Iran.

Syria said Israeli warplanes crossed its northern border on Sept. 6 and were repelled by its air defenses after dropping ammunition on Syrian territory. Israeli officials have declined to comment on the incident.

The BBC adds:


On Thursday, Mr Olmert told Israel's Channel 10 television that he was interested in peace with Syria, and that both sides knew what the other wanted.

"Very clearly we want peace with the Syrians and we are taking all manner of actions to this end," he said. "President Bashar al-Assad knows precisely what our expectations are and we know his. I won't say more."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (archive)

Mr Erdogan is due to visit the Syrian capital, Damascus, this weekend

The former US President, Jimmy Carter, who held talks with the Syrian leader recently has said he believes "about 85%" of the differences between Israel and Syria have already been resolved, including borders, water rights, the establishment of a security zone and on the presence of international forces.

"[Mr Assad said] the only major difference in starting good-faith talks was that Israel insisted that there will be no public acknowledgment that the talks were going on when Syria insisted that the talks would not be a secret," Mr Carter said earlier this week.

Mr Carter said it was now "just a matter of reconvening the talks and concluding an agreement" between the neighbouring countries.

The Syrian reports on Wednesday have sparked outrage in the Israeli parliament, however, where several MPs said they would seek to accelerate the passage of a bill requiring any withdrawal from the Golan to be dependent on a referendum.

"Olmert's readiness to withdraw from the Golan represents an unprecedented political and national abandon," Yuval Steinitz of Likud told the Haaretz newspaper.

Correspondents say returning the Golan to Syria is not a popular concept in Israel, and the details of a possible Israeli withdrawal have bedevilled past negotiations between the two countries.

Comments (211)

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201. norman said:


I guess with Lebanon as part of Syria , You are eligible to be in the Greater Syria’s Government , Shai too for the same reason . When Israel joins.

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April 25th, 2008, 10:56 pm


202. Rowan Berkeley said:

Now that I have the screen shots, via Moon of Alabama, I agree that it is perfectly OK to make deductions of the gross dimensions of the interiors and exteriors, Shai.

um, “Friend in America” – please tell us from where you bring, “these films were taken by israeli commandos who secretly visited the site in July – 2 months before the raid.”

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April 25th, 2008, 11:22 pm


203. Honest Patriot said:

Seems that QN’s genetics theory are spawning competition:

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April 25th, 2008, 11:46 pm


204. Shual said:

Rowan Berkeley

Shual, not Shai. Shai is a different person. And: “The evidence and photos, if they are to be taken at face value, were certainly impressive and convincing according to those who attended the briefing.” So there are more photos. [And nobody should belive that the Israelis bomb something without a reason. The reason can be wrong and thats why we should demand to learn ALL about the story.]

You can see it like this: The video is bad enough to embarass Assad not too much, but good enough for the Senate and anyone else to understand the message “If Israelis say they had to attack, there are reasons for it.”, even if those reasons [no reprocessing plant, etc…] do not indicate an organized nuclear arms programm and do not indicate that it really was a nuclear installtion. Political reasons, like Baraks debut and Olmerts low approval rates must be considered, but after we saw no innocent victims and we saw some easing the tensions in the last weeks we should not overestimate the Israeli attack or the allegations of the White House.

One person should be worried: Ahmadinejad.

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April 26th, 2008, 12:44 am


205. Mark Konrad said:

One person should be worried: Ahmadinejad.

Worried about what? An Israeli attack on Iran? That’s not going to happen. The Israelis don’t have the necessary resources or the nerve to do it. One strike or a wave of strikes over the course of a day or two won’t get it done. The Iranians have their facilities too well dispersed and protected. In addition, regardless of how reliable or unreliable the guidance systems are on those Shahab-3s, some are going to land in painful places inside Israel. I would imagine more than a few are aimed at Dimona and a fortuitous hit or two there could be a PR nightmare for Israel. They’d have to do a lot of public explaining that they haven’t been required to do up to now….. But anyway, even though Israel isn’t going to attack Iran Ahmadi Nezhad would love it if they did. That would solidify his political position inside the country. He’s not real popular now.

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April 26th, 2008, 1:28 am


206. Enlightened said:

Our family buried a great uncle here yesterday, he was the last surviving link from the old generation from our old homeland, so it is with great sadness and a very heavy heart, this morning that I log in to my favourite website and read and witness some very sad devolpments.

HP: Truly the alligators are in the swamp, and being neck deep we tend to lose focus on the little things since surviving the swamp takes a lot of brutal instincts and cunning. At least we have no war (yet) in Lebanon, and that still is a good thing.

Why Discuss: It takes a lot to look inward, your description of Lebanon as a failed state, would in my younger days have made me clench my jaw and snap back with my crocodile teeth. Lebanon is a work in progress, I still hold some optimism that my Syrian friends would look at their own system with some introspection and not so casually deride the little country next door with all its faults, yet also look at some of its good points (and there are many), that some within Syria so casually dismiss as weak, yet fail to look at their own house and what ails it.

Shai: I didnt have a chance to respond to your earlier email that Day because I had more pressing matters to attend to.

It seems to me now that the Leak about Kadish does not mean a great deal, but the US governments leak of the Syrian reactor might be coincidental to take the heat off the spying scandal and get it off the front pages in the US.

I watched BBC world news late last night and watched the Syrian Nuclear reactor story unfold. The main question I was left pondering, bias aside Does the Bush/Cheney team USA really expect us the gullible public to swallow another WMD story? With more still photos and touched up photo shop pictures? Ok lets give them credit for having the intelligence to use more sophisticated art skills this time around, but it begs the question “what the hell is the intention this time around”?

It might be a scorching summer this time around, but are they really that stupid to start another round of war this year. In the words of one “Forrest Gump”

“Stupid is as Stupid Does”!

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April 26th, 2008, 1:52 am


207. Enlightened said:

wizart said:

The only defense Syria needs is more people like Simo, Alex, Naji, Zenobia, Nour, HP, Enlightened, Offended, Ehsani, FP and politically incorrect souls?! like (Bon T Sol), Kifa Nabki, Shai, Atassi and Majhoul? The Landis clan gets credit for keeping the orchestra energized and ever more hopeful that peace maybe over the horizon 🙂

Sorry I hate Labels , but when you use them please do so correctly. Please remove me from the first lot, and place me with the second lot of politically incorrect souls!

No take it back am I part of the second or first! Damn I am so confused, maybe I need some of those Eccies that The Israeli soldiers are being treated with, I need to feel more empathy. Ok get me into that crocodile swamp with HP, I feel more comfortable there!

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April 26th, 2008, 5:32 am


208. Qifa Nabki said:


My condolences for your great uncle. May he rest in peace.

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April 26th, 2008, 1:53 pm


209. Shai said:


I’m also sorry to hear about your great uncle. Please accept my deepest condolences. Our family truly is the only link we have to our past and, through us, we are theirs to the future.

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April 26th, 2008, 5:35 pm


210. Shai said:


You’ll see, like the Kadish thing, this Syria Nuke story will also blow over. A week from now, no one will remember if it was a North Korean reactor in Syria, or a Syrian reactor in North Korea. Or, for that matter, where Syria or N. Korea are located on the map… 🙂 Americans are particularly bad at Geography…

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April 26th, 2008, 6:28 pm


211. Causes of the Second World War - Just Cause said:

[…] Syria expert Josh Landis discusses a different theory of diversion, having to do with revelations that Syria and Israel are closer to an agreement on the future of the Golan Heights. […]

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May 7th, 2008, 8:45 pm


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