Is Israel Looking for Korean Weapons in Syria?

Why would Israel risk war by flying deep into Syria?

I am going to speculate, based on the following evidence.

Israeli planes were on a "'reconnaissance mission when they got caught by Syrian defenses and were forced to drop their bombs and extra fuel tanks,' said a Western diplomat in Syria's capital Damascus. He declined to be named. Military analysts said Israel has conducted reconnaissance flights over Syria to probe its defenses. Witnesses said several planes crossed deep into Syrian territory and flew over the oil centre of Deir al Zor on the Euphrates river."

John Bolton wrote this in the WSJ on Aug. 31 under the title, "Axis of Evil: Pyongyang's Upper Hand." Here are the last paragraphs, which speculate that Syria is providing "safe havens for North Korea's nuclear weapons development."

President Bush has stressed that we must also deal with Pyongyang's biological, chemical and ballistic missile programs. We must address these programs, especially the missiles, soon. Failure to make explicit the important connection between weapons and delivery systems will certainly come back to haunt us, and we are on the verge of allowing this point to slip away entirely.

Finally, we need to learn the details of North Korean nuclear cooperation with other countries. We know that both Iran and Syria have long cooperated with North Korea on ballistic missile programs, and the prospect of cooperation on nuclear matters is not far-fetched. Whether and to what extent Iran, Syria or others might be "safe havens" for North Korea's nuclear weapons development, or may have already participated with or benefited from it, must be made clear.

For our own safety's sake, and that of allies like Japan and South Korea, there can be no compromises on these points.

My hunch is that Israel is taking a closer look at industrial sites outside of Deir al-Zur to see if they can see if anything looks Korea-like and what is going on with missile and weapons development.

This is speculation, but Western intelligence agencies have been suspicious for some time that Korean technology is working its way to Syria. September 2006, Interpol had Cypriot authorities search a ship coming from Korea to Latakia only to find ballistic missile components and not weapons. Here is the report.

Cyprus finds air defense systems on Syria-bound ship: Washington Post. Interpol told Cypriot authorities the ship, the Gregorio I, which had been loaded in China and North Korea and was destined for Latakia, was carrying ballistic missile components. Cyprus searched the ship only to discover that it contained air defense systems and not weapons. They are trying to figure out what to do with it now. This is the first indication of the power of UN resolution 1701.

In 2004, there were some weird reports that Syrian officials had visited North Korean weapons facilities, where they had been involved in a train crash. See: Syrians With Secret CBW Material On Korean Train That Exploded? This report came as Bolton was trying to make the case that Syria had reactivated its nuclear program. See my post on this, here. The intelligence community in the US was divided over Bolton's claims.

Bolton is not making all this stuff up. Right wingers in the agencies are feeding him with this stuff because they know he is rash enough to go out on a limb to make noise about it and push the issue. He has been pushing the issue for years. My hunch is that some new bit of intelligence has come in to reanimate Bolton and the debate over Syria's weapons capabilities. The Israelis went on their 'reconnaissance mission' to see if they could get to the bottom of it. The neocons do not want the "Axis of Evil" concept to go cold. Bolton represents the crowd that is very distressed that the US has declared defeat in North Korea by trusting the North Koreans. They would like to scuttle that agreement. While doing it, anything they can drag into to boost the notion of weapons transfers between Korea and Syria and Iran will be icing on the cake. Israeli planes were trying to get the goods.

Addendum: (next day) Kaan from Turkey writes:

Dear Dr. Landis,

After the news about that Israil airplanes accused of air raid on Syria, a new news has flashed in Turkish news channels. This time, according to the local people of the Gindiralik ares of the Koroglu Mt, Hatay (Antioch), the midnight of September 5, a Syrian airplane dropped its fuel tank on the Turkish side of the Turco-Syrian border. ( . The web site that oublished this news put a dropped fule tank's picture shows the tank in the rural area. A military expert of  air forces may identify which air force uses this kind of fuel tank.
What can be said that a certain incedent happened on the Turco-Syrian air space border on the September 5.
There are a google earth picture as far as I've tried to locate the area mentioned in the news and a picture of the airplane fuel tank.
Regards, Kaan Kutlu ATAC, HAcettepe University.
Also, this from a commentator.
“In the first reaction from an Israeli official to Wednesday night’s alleged IAF foray over Syria, Science, Culture and Sports Minister Ghaleb Majadle said Friday that IAF planes enter Syrian airspace on a daily basis, adding that he did not believe the latest alleged incident would spark off a war.” LINK 
 I have hear that Syria regularly overflies Syrian airspace from other Israeli sources as well. 

rumyal writes:

Hello Joshua, Your theory doesn’t check out because (a) the flights took place (as reported) in the middle of the night and there isn’t much to see or photograph at that time. (b) The US doesn’t need Israel to do this work for it since it has very advanced satelites. Isreal, too, has them.

The Daily Star has a condemning editorial:

"Israel’s policy of provocation only increases the threat of war," By The Daily Star, Friday, September 07, 2007

The precise details of what happened over northeastern Syria in the early hours of Thursday morning may never be known, but the incident served up yet another warning about the inherent perils created by Israel’s policy of provocation. The Jewish state routinely violates Lebanon’s airspace, and while its intrusions into Syria’s are less numerous and less ostentatious, they are also more dangerous. All of this is the result of the impunity with which Israel violates the norms of international law, and this impunity is the product of double standards imposed at the United Nations by the United States and some of its allies. The daily effect of this lopsidedness is to increase tensions, especially in those countries that share borders with Israel.

Comments (43)

majedkhaldoun said:

this is good analysis.

does Syria has the capabilities to down israeli planes,if so why they did not down one or two?, it would be embarassment to Israel, the fact that those planes were too deep inside Syria,some 200 mile east of Latakia, suggest that Syria may not have the weapons to down Israeli plane

September 7th, 2007, 5:05 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

IMHO, was a routine test of air defenses. I think that those Israeli flyboys are almost rogues, not even commanded by the Israeli executive. They have even been harrassing the German units off Lebanon cause the crews’ great grandfathers may have lived during the Reich. And, if you want information, try an informer or a drone.

September 7th, 2007, 7:30 am


rumyal said:

Hello Joshua,

Your theory doesn’t check out because (a) the flights took place (as reported) in the middle of the night and there isn’t much to see or photograph at that time. (b) The US doesn’t need Israel to do this work for it since it has very advanced satelites. Isreal, too, has them.

So I believe that probing the defenses, checking whehter they can find a route into the soft belly of Syria without being detected is one option.

Another option is that this was made to explicitly tick off the syrians as part of some grand scheme to start a war, maybe because “it will happen anyway, so let’s pick the time that is best for us” type of logic.

Final option is that this was a decoying operation to help conceal something else that was going on at the same time.

Anyway I’m really conflicted about this because I care about the Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian people but at the same time would like to see Baby Lion being kicked a little bit.

September 7th, 2007, 7:47 am


everd said:

do planes’ flights over industrial plants provide adequate information about the nature of the (nuclear?) activity there? Don’t satellite images provide better information? I’m not convinced the planes were spying – but may be testing Syrian reactions.

September 7th, 2007, 8:02 am


Disaffection said:

* إلغاء تأشيرات الدخول المفروضة على العراقيين المتوجهين إلى سورية بعد أيام من فرضها

موقع أخبار الشرق – الجمعة 7 أيلول/ سبتمبر 2007

بغداد – أ ف ب

أعلن بيان للحكومة العراقية الجمعة الغاء تأشيرات الدخول التي اعلن الاسبوع الماضي عن فرضها على العراقيين الراغبين بالسفر إلى سوريا اعتبارا من العاشر من أيلول/ سبتمبر.

وقالت الحكومة في بيان ان “اتصالات اجراها مدير مكتب رئيس الوزراء نوري المالكي مع الاشقاء السوريين اثمرت اعفاء العراقيين من تاشيرة الدخول إلى سوريا”.

وكان مصدر في وزارة الخارجية السورية اعلن الاثنين ان سوريا ستفرض تأشيرات دخول على المواطنين العراقيين صالحة لمدة ثلاثة اشهر لدخول الاراضي السورية اعتبارا من العاشر من أيلول/ سبتمبر.

ومنذ غزو القوات الأميركية للعراق في آذار/ مارس 2003 لجأ اكثر من 2.3 ملايين عراقي إلى سوريا (اكثر من 1.5 ملايين) أو الاردن (750 ألفاً).

وافادت ارقام المفوضية العليا للاجئين التابعة للامم المتحدة، يلجأ ثلاثون الف عراقي كل شهر إلى سوريا.

واشادت المفوضية العليا في وقت سابق، في فيينا بجهود سوريا والاردن لاستقبال اللاجئين العراقيين وطلبت من الجهات المانحة تقديم مساعدة كبيرة إلى هذين البلدين ليتمكنا من مواجهة تدفق هؤلاء اللاجئين

September 7th, 2007, 9:18 am


Akbar Palace said:

“Peace Prof” Josh continues to dig against his anti-terror government:

Bolton represents the crowd that is very distressed that the US has declared defeat in North Korea [my emphasis] by trusting the North Koreans. They would like to scuttle that agreement. While doing it, anything they can drag into to boost the notion of weapons transfers between Korea and Syria and Iran will be icing on the cake. Israeli planes were trying to get the goods.

Who exactly is declaring “defeat”?:

GENEVA (AP) — North Korea agreed Sunday to account for and disable its atomic programs by the end of the year, offering its first timeline for a process long sought by nuclear negotiators, the chief U.S. envoy said.

Kim Gye Gwan, head of the North Korean delegation, said separately his country’s willingness to cooperate was clear — in return for “political and economic compensation” — but he mentioned no dates.

Hill, a U.S. assistant secretary of state, said two days of talks between the United States and North Korea in Geneva had been “very good and very substantive” and would help improve chances of a successful meeting later this month with Japan, Russia, South Korea and China in six-nation talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear weapons program and improving relations between North Korea and other countries.

“One thing that we agreed on is that the DPRK will provide a full declaration of all of their nuclear programs and will disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year, 2007,” Hill told reporters, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Hill said the declaration will also include uranium enrichment programs, which the United States fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.

“When we say all nuclear programs, we mean all,” he said.

It’s always entertaining to see how terrorist-sympathizers spin positive information and make it negative.

September 7th, 2007, 11:37 am


Georges said:

This is completely unjustified and has the effect of raising the tension between Syria and Israel. I still think a war could happen anytime; it seems to be the only way forward for Israel and the US on multiple fronts: Lebanon, Iraq, Hamas.

Do you think this constitutes a flagrant violation of Syria, and hence merits Syrian response or do you think Israel is justified? Vote on:


September 7th, 2007, 12:57 pm


SimoHurtta said:

It’s always entertaining to see how terrorist-sympathizers spin positive information and make it negative

What can we Akbar read today from JP:
“In the first reaction from an Israeli official to Wednesday night’s alleged IAF foray over Syria, Science, Culture and Sports Minister Ghaleb Majadle said Friday that IAF planes enter Syrian airspace on a daily basis, adding that he did not believe the latest alleged incident would spark off a war.”

On daily basis the minister confesses. Seems that Israel really doesn’t understand what borders mean. What if Syrian planes would daily enter Israel’s airspace? There would be war at once.

You have interesting ministers in Israel Akbar. Lets see how this minister’s honest “slip” is spinned.

September 7th, 2007, 1:29 pm


norman said:

Israel’s policy of provocation only increases the threat of war
By The Daily Star

Friday, September 07, 2007


The precise details of what happened over northeastern Syria in the early hours of Thursday morning may never be known, but the incident served up yet another warning about the inherent perils created by Israel’s policy of provocation. The Jewish state routinely violates Lebanon’s airspace, and while its intrusions into Syria’s are less numerous and less ostentatious, they are also more dangerous. All of this is the result of the impunity with which Israel violates the norms of international law, and this impunity is the product of double standards imposed at the United Nations by the United States and some of its allies. The daily effect of this lopsidedness is to increase tensions, especially in those countries that share borders with Israel.

What is more, the incident comes at a period of marked regional instability. For months after the Israeli military was humiliated by Hizbullah and shamed by its own atrocities during last summer’s war with Lebanon, speculation has been rampant that another conflict might break out. Some of the very American neoconservatives who led the charge for their country’s continuing misadventure in Iraq were highly disappointed that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not expand last summer’s offensive into Syria (notwithstanding the inability of his troops to gain full control of even tiny villages like Maroun al-Ras), and they have been engaged ever since in a campaign to get new hostilities under way. Certain Israeli officials have been only too happy to oblige, periodically – and preposterously – opining publicly that Syria might be preparing an attempt to regain the occupied Golan Heights by force. Faced with this highly threatening combination of American warmongering and Israeli saber-rattling, Damascus has had little choice but to beef up its defenses by acquiring more anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons – leading to still more unsettling rhetoric from Israeli politicians and military commanders alike. Both sides have more recently stated that they do not want war, but that is of little comfort.

The problem with this little game is that it has the potential to trigger a shooting war. And while a limited clash might conceivably help to break up the diplomatic logjam over the Golan, there are no guarantees that an Israeli-Syrian conflict could be prevented from spinning out of control, especially when one recalls the breakneck (and ultimately suicidal) pace at which Olmert graduated from blowing up bridges to massacring women children in July 2006. This is not a man in whose judgment and common sense a prospective foe should place much confidence. It is important for both sides, therefore, to draw up contingency plans now so that if they do become entangled in a direct military confrontation, they refrain from the kinds of actions that might escalate into full-scale war.

The fondest wish of many Israelis is to be accepted by their neighbors, but that cannot happen unless and until their government starts behaving itself. In the absence of acceptable comportment by the Jewish state, the Syrian regime would be well advised to tread very carefully lest it provide a pretext for the latest in a long line of blows to regional stability.

Tags: American, Conflict, Israel, Lebanon, Military, Olmert, Syria, Syrian, War

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September 7th, 2007, 1:38 pm


Observer said:

The silence of the Israeli side confirms that an incident did happen. The scenario could be one of several options
1. Probe of Syrian Defenses to see if the new S-300 and S-400 anti aircraft missile system is operational
2. Reconnaissance of industrial and long range missile sites
3. Probe of Syria while other methods of surveillance are active such as communications interception, code breaking, and satellite imagery that would happen at the same time as the probe. Satellites have night and day capability and some have all weather radar scanning that would show detail even in cloud cover.
4. Probe of routes to fly over on the way to Iran.
I do not think that Israel is in a provocative mood right now for a confrontation but is perfectaly able and capable of doing anything to sow dissent in the Arab side in the upcoming peace initiative.

September 7th, 2007, 2:27 pm


Nour said:

I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Israel flew deep into Syria. What appears to have happened is that they crossed into Syrian airspace from Turkey, over tal el-abyad, which is barely across the border, either to test Syria’s air defense capabilities or to conduct some other reconnaissance activity. However, being caught by the Syrians and chased out of their airspace has caused a bit of an embarassment to the Jewish state and has put it in a difficult position. For one, they would have to explain their actions to Turkey, as they used Turkish airspace to engage in an act of provocation. In addition, if a war were to be sparked, they would be seen as having instigated. Therefore, the Israelis have tried to keep quiet and contain the situation.

September 7th, 2007, 4:46 pm


ausamaa said:

Could they not have come through some point accross Jordan then north through Iraq? Did Syria complain to Turkey about the Israeli intrusion? Why not? Same distance to Iranian eastward. The good thing is they were found by someone who was alert enough, and chased off and forced to drop off weaponary to lighten their wieght while getting away. Who the hell would know? Testing readiness and “automatic” response I would think.

September 7th, 2007, 5:39 pm


ausamaa said:

Oh heck, the Syrian Source said they came from the Mideterranean side but not from which point, niether gone back to through which route?

September 7th, 2007, 6:08 pm


Atassi said:

The talks about the retaliations and escalation coming out of a directed individuals form the Syrian government, seems to be exclusively directed at staling the coming peace conferences with Israel, it will be particularly difficult for the KSA to attend this conference with this kind of regional circumstances.
Israel and the US realize that Syria is more then willing to escalate and looking for a way to do so with the intention of preventing the coming peace conference, I think that why Israel working feverishly to bring this incident to rest, knowing that the KSA and other Arab parties will be “NO Show “.
Syria smartly playing this incident to its advantages.
We can spin the story all we can, but the bottom-line the Air defense is still weak and venerable, The Syrian leaders and Army bosses must pause their business activities and work on mending the country defenses.

September 7th, 2007, 7:20 pm


Disaffection said:

There’s has always been talk of retaliation. Everytime IAF violates Syrian airspace, government officials call for an appropriate response, when and where they see fit. Here’s an interesting question, when the hell is it going to be appropriate? when will our honourable Syrian representatives stand for the country and people they’re suppose to defend? When will they begin to live up to their rhetoric? when will they start to flex those muscles on someone else other than they Syrians? When Israeli tanks cruise down Souk Hamidieh? ah lak khai? The government react within seconds if local dissatisfaction is voiced outside a government building. But when Israeli planes break the sound barrier in Syria, the government is calm a as a corps.
Atassi, the Syrian leaders and Army bosses are only there for business, not to mend the country’s defence. Have you lost your mind to suggest they should put their business on hold? la jhanam el balad killa.

September 7th, 2007, 8:08 pm


why-discuss said:

Atassi, if Syria does not want to be left in the cold should this conference ever happen, i believe Israel does not want this conference at all now, especially that the real dangerous opponents syria and Iran will not be present and Israel is in a position of weakness, having lost the war with Heznollah and seeing Iran going out the hook of international sanctions (IAEA Baradei is finally waking up to his responsibilities after the disaster of Iraq)
The only way for Israel to recover some strength is to add more pressure on Syria, rumoring WDM development ( through their friend Bolton) and creating a fear factor.. This is such a childish strategy but then Israel’s war against hezbollah was the epitome of stupidity, what can we expect?

September 7th, 2007, 8:35 pm


ugarit said:

How can the Syrians know that the radar image is of an Israeli warplane? Do reconnaissance missions carry bombs?

September 7th, 2007, 8:49 pm


norman said:

Israel’s security and the Russian navy
03 September 2007

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What are the possible consequences of a permanent Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean? Israeli military planners have been grappling with this question since Admiral Vladimir Masorin, the commander of Russian Naval Forces, said in August: “For the Black Sea fleet, the Mediterranean has the highest strategic importance… I think a permanent presence of the Russian navy should be restored there.”

Masorin’s view was seconded by Admiral Eduard Baltin, the former commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet, who said: “The Soviet navy had the capability to keep a permanent naval group in the Mediterranean… Russia can now ensure a military-political presence there.”

Assuming that Admiral Masorin’s words represent the views of the Russian military and the Kremlin, a new and potentially destabilising factor could emerge in the Middle East in the foreseeable future.

Israeli experts say the presence of a Russian naval force, most likely based in the Syrian port of Tartus, would represent a significant strengthening of Russian intelligence gathering capabilities in the region. The Russian navy is considered to have high-quality electronic equipment capable of observing new weapons systems and intercepting communications.

Intelligence experts point to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s emphasis on the importance of intelligence gathering during a meeting of top military brass on 25 July. The Israeli press has speculated the products of these efforts could be shared with the Syrian and other governments hostile to Israel in the region and, in the worst case scenario, with Iran.

244 of 875 words
© 2007 Jane’s Information Group
End of non-subscriber extract

September 8th, 2007, 1:12 am


norman said:


September 7, 2007

10 Questions: What About Syria?

Nancy Ramsey is a contributor to
While Katie was in Damascus, interviewing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, we hit the phones again.

(Council of Foreign Relations)Yesterday we posted our 10 Questions on Iraq with Reza Aslan, and we decided to pose another 10 Questions (well, OK, 11), on Syria, to Steven Cook.

He’s a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, with expertise on Arab politics and U.S.-Middle East policy.
1. In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, Senator Joseph Lieberman
wrote that Syria has “an open door policy to terrorists” and that the regime is “playing travel agent for Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Is this fair?

He’s probably overstating the case when it comes to Al Qaeda. When he says Al Qaeda, it conjures up an image of Osama Bin Laden, of Ayman Zawahiri, of 9/11. After 9/11, based on everything I know, there was fairly good cooperation between the Bush administration and the administration of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. There is certainly reason for Syria to be concerned about Al Qaeda.

It is, however, well known that Syria hosts a variety of terrorist organizations. In the past Syria hosted the leadership of the PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers¹ Party, which targets Turkey. A variety of Palestinian terror organization, most notably Hamas, maintain a presence in Damascus.
It¹s also a transit point in the region and elsewhere for people who want to engage in jihad in Iraq.

Al Qaeda of Iraq, also known as Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia, has links to, but they are not controlled by, the Al Qaeda whose leadership is suspected to be hiding out along the Afghan-Pakistan border. It remains unclear whether terrorists with direct links to bin Laden are transiting through Syria. The country has not been hospitable to them, so it seems less likely than Senator Lieberman suggests.

Nevertheless, he is correct in saying that Syria is a bad actor when it comes to terrorism.

2. Who is passing through Syria?

People from all over the Muslim have answered the call for jihad against the United States in Iraq. They see the U.S. as the aggressor and occupier.
There is evidence of Saudi, Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, North Africans, Turks and others, and some of them are going through Damascus.

And we haven’t gotten a lot of cooperation on border security from Syria.

3. Fill us in on Syria’s president, Bashar Al-Assad.

Bashar is an ophthalmologist who was training in London, when his older bother Basil was killed in a car crash in early 1994. Basil was being groomed to be Hafez al-Assad¹s successor. With his brother’s death, Bashar became the heir to the regime. People did have high hopes for him, believing that his time in the West and his reported fondness for surfing the internet would make him a reformer.

This was kind of silly. There are many retrograde ideologies that have roots in the West, and the internet can be used for bad purposes as well as good purposes. Just check out jihadi websites.

Bashar is basically an extension of his father’s rule, though he is somewhat less secure given his lack of experience. He has come to rely on a small group, including his brother and brother-in-law to maintain a grip on power.
Some people believe that he is dumb, but he has proved to be rather shrewd since becoming president in 2000.

4. There are estimates that some 60 to 70 terrorists are passing through Syria on their way to Iraq every month. Do you think this is an accurate assessment? Are they coming through the Damascus International Airport, or across the border?

It is hard to say with any precision how many people are transiting through Syria on the way to Iraq. Some have used the airport and then traveled by bus to the border area and crossed into Iraq. Others have used overland border crossings. It is striking that the movement of aspiring jihadis to the Syria-Iraq border has been fairly well organized. It is important to remember that many of Saddam’s associates took refuge in Syria and have played a part organizing the insurgency from there.

5. How has U.S. policy in Iraq affected Syria?

Had the U.S. been more successful in Iraq, there would have been significant concerns for the durability of the Assad regime. There were influential opinion leaders and officials in Washington who saw that after Iraq, the next stop was either Syria or Iran. Syria¹s still in a precarious position, but that¹s strengthened by the U.S.’s being bogged down in Iraq.

That’s why the Syrians turn a blind eye to people transiting their territory to fight in the Iraqi insurgency. Better to keep the U.S. busy in Iraq than thinking about regime change in Syria. Realistically, at this point, I don’t believe the American public has an appetite for that.

6. A November 2006 Iraq Displacement Report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that there are at least 600,000 refugees in Syria…

The number is actually closer to 1 million. In the early stages the Syrians were only too happy to welcome wealthy Iraqis and “former regime elements.”
In general, the Syrians have been more generous and welcoming to Iraqi refugees, but as the number of people seeking safety in Syria has grown, it has started to strain the Syrians. The government is now placing restrictions on refugees in terms of working, education, and health care.

7. Bring us up to date, briefly, on the U.S.’s historical relationship with Syria.

During the Cold War, Syria was a Soviet client state.

Syria supports terrorism. They are in a state of war with Israel, though there have been no major hostilities between the countries since 1982. They take the Arab view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is that Israel is a colonial creation established in the heart of the Arab and Muslim world.

And they have consistently sought to undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon, which they see as a natural part of Syria. There¹s an Arabic phrase that some Syrians use, “sha’ab wahid baladayn,” which means “one people, two countries.” That’s how Syria sees it; the Lebanese, of course, don¹t really dig on that.

After the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, which Syrian agents are widely believed to have perpetrated, there was talk of regime change in Syria. But there remains no credible alternative to the Assad regime. To topple it would invite further instability in the region.

That doesn¹t mean Washington approves of Syria¹s government. It is under sanction. But unlike Iran, Syria does have an ambassador in Washington. We recalled our ambassador from Damascus after the assassination of Hariri.
Secretary of State Rice did meet Syria¹s foreign minister earlier this year, but the dialogue hasn¹t gone very far.

8. What does the alliance between Syria and Iran mean for the U.S. presence in Iraq?

Both the Iranians and the Syrians share an interest in keeping the United States bogged down in Iraq. From the perspective of Damascus and Tehran, this protects them from being the next U.S. targets for regime change.

9. President Bush was in Anbar province earlier this week, where American military forces are working ­ successfully, it appears — with local tribal leaders to fight Al Qaeda of Iraq forces. Anbar borders Syria, and terrorist were transitting through Syria to Iraq…

We have to see what happens. Anbar was a major destination where insurgents were coming in, and this may slow down the jihadi traffic. Anbar and Nineva provinces both border Syria. If you remember, there was a bombing in Nineva just recently. If Anbar is no longer receptive, this insurgency may spread to other areas.

10. Yesterday Syria accused Israeli planes of violating its airspace…

There has been much talk over the last year about possible hostilities between Israel and Syria.

After last summer’s war in Lebanon, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad warned the Israelis that they could not hold on to the Golan Heights forever. There is evidence that the Syrians have undertaken, with Russian help, a program of military modernization, which would — for the first time in years — give the Syrians a military option against the Israelis.

The Israelis are clearly concerned about these developments and undertook a reconnaisance mission over Syria. Syrian air defense forces detected the Israeli planes, whose pilots decided to jettison their external fuel tanks and bombs to make the planes lighter so they could evade the Syrians more effectively and leave Syrian airspace more quickly. This is not an unprecedented event, but this time the Israelis got caught with their hands in the cookie jar…

11. Where does Syria’s support of Hamas, of Hezbollah come from?

Historically Hezbollah was a way in which the Syrians could essentially stick a finger in the eye of the Israelis without necessarily bringing the wrath of the Israeli defense forces down on Syria. And Hezbollah, by the way, is not a creation of Syria and Iran, even though it¹s often seen this way. It is true that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were involved in training Hezballah when the organization was founded in the early 1980s, but Hezbollah is rooted in Lebanese society, it¹s a reflection of the grievances and frustrations of Lebanon¹s Shia population. It should be noted that Hezballah representatives have sat in the Lebanese parliament since the early 1990s and until last fall had three cabinet ministers in the Lebanese government.

And Syria allows for Hamas to have an office in Damascus. Hamas’s activities, of course, include attacking Israel, weakening Israel. And a weaker Israel is not as much of a threat to Syria.

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September 8th, 2007, 1:38 am


why-discuss said:

I think the Russian presence in Syria is a very good move from Poutine to counterbalance the US presence. The US is installing defense equipment in old Soviet countries, Russia is re-arming Syria and moving into the mediterranean sea (and hopefully in the persian gulf). The US and Israel will not have freehand anymore in the mediterranean sea. With Russia and Iran as allies, Syria is getting stronger and Israel weaker.This must be very disturbing to Israel and it won’t be surprising if they make some bold moves to assert their military supremacy after the lebanese war IDF fiasco.

September 8th, 2007, 3:47 am


SimoHurtta said:

DEBKAfile, the mother of truth, tells us:

DEBKAfile Exclusive: The Israeli jets said to have penetrated Syrian airspace Wednesday night escaped by jamming Russian-made Pantsyr-S1 air defense missiles

DEBKAfile’s military experts conclude from the way Damascus described the episode that the Pantsyr-S1 missiles were a letdown because they failed to down the intruders and therefore leave Syria and Iranian airspace vulnerable to hostile intrusion.

uch information on the Russian weapons systems sold to both countries is essential to any US calculations of whether to attack Iran.

Syria and Iran took delivery in mid-August of 10 batteries of sophisticated Russian Pantsyr-S1 Air Defense Missile fire control system with advanced radar and “absolute jamming immunity” to protect their strategic installations, those sources report. They had just been installed in Syria.

A Syrian spokesman said the Israeli plane or planes which entered northeast Syria from the Mediterranean were forced to leave by air defense fire after “dropping its ammunition.” Understanding that the Pantsyr-21 had failed to repulse the intruding craft, Moscow hastened Thursday to officially deny selling the systems to Syria or Iran and called on Israel to respect international law. This was diplomatic-speak for a warning against attacking the Russian-made missiles batteries stations where Russian instructors are working alongside Syrian teams.

More in DEBKAfile Exclusive Military Report

September 8th, 2007, 4:25 am


SimoHurtta said:

10:47 Al-Arabiya: IAF bombed stockpile of foreign-made missiles in Syria (Israel Radio)

September 8th, 2007, 9:12 am


t_desco said:

Bombing a stockpile of missiles, would that not create a massive blast?

In other news, the SPIEGEL reports that the military-grade detonators in the recent plot to bomb US bases in Germany came from Syria.

The suspected leader of the plot, Fritz Gelowicz, had spent some time in Syria to learn Arabic, but it seems that he soon traveled on to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan linked to an Uzbek group.

September 8th, 2007, 1:39 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

here is a nice analysis frpm an israeli peace activist, he even cites Syriacomment’s previous post

September 8th, 2007, 1:49 pm


t_desco said:

English version:

“The three arrested suspects — two German converts to Islam and a Turk -– were reported to have received their instructions from Pakistan as well as detonators from Syria.”
(Details of Terror Suspects’ Plan Slowly Emerge, DW)

September 8th, 2007, 4:40 pm


ausamaa said:

I liked the comment by a one SC commentator when he took us back to Syria’s 1973 decision NOT to use its new missiles during an Israeli raid, only to surprise Israel few months later with the stunning effectiveness of Syria’s SAMs during October 1973.

I also tend to worry about the TIMING. VP al Sharaa commented in Rome (where Who is Who in the Labanon-solving marathon was congregating) that Israel was intimidating Syria and pushing things to the wall so that “peacefull” efforts would fail. Be it the ROME Lebanese oriented efforts or something else. He also refered to the “long distance” along the Lebanese-Syrian coastline, then inwards, the planes travelled!! Why was reference necessary? And to whom? Was he complaininmg that they flew over supposedly promissed “secure” space?

Finally, the Pantzer SAM missiles are a relatively new addition to Syria’s (and Iran’s) Air Defence. The testing ground is important, the Syria-Iraq-Turkey triangle? So maybe Israel and Friends are just testing some thing? Effectiveness wise or distance wise or alertness wise?

Given all the above, I would rather stick to guessing who is planning to double-cross who in Lebanon, than dipping into an analysis of what games the IDF, the Sixth Fleet task force, the Syrian armed forces and the Russian Navy are playing overhead.

September 8th, 2007, 4:45 pm


why-discuss said:

Israel military air power is unmatched in the region and they used it ad nausea in the war against Hezbollah with the disatrous result we know.
If Hezbollah and Syria become equipped with a sophisticated defense equipment, Israel may loose that card. This is probably why they are so worried about Syria rearming and the increased involvement of Russia in selling defense systems to Syria and Iran and soon to Lebanon as the Lebanese commander in chief is hoping for.
The same applies to any nuclear power any of these countries may develop, thus the anti Baradei campaign etc….
The clock is ticking against Israel ummatched military power, they must do something to rehabiliate themselves in a position of power before the november hypothetical conference.
We will probably see more of these intimidations manoeuvers in the weeks to come as well as increased campaign of demonization of Iran and Syria.

September 8th, 2007, 4:52 pm


ausamaa said:

Yeh, makes us feel real “sorry” for peace-loving Israel stuck between the Rock and Hard Place…..unless it downs on them that TIME flies faster than they would like for it to do.

September 8th, 2007, 5:01 pm


t_desco said:

Turkey says two IAF fuel tanks found near its border with Syria

By Yoav Stern and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies

Turkey has asked Israel for clarification after finding two fuel tanks allegedly belonging to Israel Air Force warplans on its territory near the Syrian border, a Turkish source said Saturday.

The statement came two days after Damascus said that Israeli jets broke the sound barrier flying over northern Syria, … then dropped munitions onto deserted areas after being shot at by Syria’s air defenses.

Turkey’s top-selling Hurriyet newspaper carried photographs on Saturday of what it said were fuel tanks jettisoned by Israeli F-151s sent to gather intelligence on Syrian installations near the Turkish border.

Neither Syrian nor Israeli sources are offering details on what took place before dawn on Thursday, and Syria has stopped short of accusing Israel of purposely bombing its territory. An Israeli spokesman has said he could not comment on military operations.

The Hurriyet report released on Saturday cited unnamed “experts” as saying they believed the IAF warplanes had jettisoned extra fuel tanks in order to escape more swiftly after Syria targeted them.

A Western diplomat speaking to reporters in Damascus on Thursday offered a similar explanation of what had occurred.

The jettisoned fuel tanks were discovered late on Thursday in the Turkish provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, hours after Damascus had accused Israel of bombing its territory. Israel has declined to comment on Syria’s charge.

“We have asked Israel to explain what happened,” the source told reporters.

The source said Turkish authorities were also trying to establish whether IAF warplanes had briefly violated Turkey’s airspace. …

September 8th, 2007, 6:36 pm


Alex_N said:

Another possibility, not so far mentioned in the discussion, is that the Israeli mission had nothing to do with Syria, but was concerned with contact with the Israeli agents in Kurdistan. An urgent retrieval of an agent? Delivery of specialised equipment, which could not be sent by civilian transport? What routes do the Israelis use? The Turks are not likely to approve overflight rights for aid to the Kurds. A fast, night-time trip right over the Turco-Syrian border, where neither Turks or Syrians are likely to fire for fear of provoking the other, might have been seen as the answer. The Israelis must have a problem for contact with their agents in Kurdistan, which must normally take place through US military transport. In a case of urgency, where they are forced to have direct contact, they might use this route. The whole affair stinks of secret agent activity.

September 8th, 2007, 7:35 pm


Alex_N said:

Just to add to the Kurdish hypothesis some detail, if it is useful, perhaps also useful for other explanations. F16s have two seats, enough for an agent or equipment. I haven’t checked out the F16’s range, but I am certain the Israelis have two-seat jets of the range required.

The Kurds will accept a fixed-wing plane landing. A Syrian fighter could have been in the air, or a missile fired. There is no evidence that the mission actually failed, just that the plane(s) had to undertake evasive manoeuvres.

Reconnaissance as an explanation, I doubt; even with modern-day techniques, I would be surprised to hear that you can gain more at night with a plane than a satellite by day. It was either an attack which did not succeed, or contact with an agent, which may have succeeded. However, landing a jet in the Syrian Jazira, to contact hypothetical Israeli agents, sounds to me improbable. It is either contact with Israelis in Kurdistan, or a failed attack upon a target in Syria which you are better equipped to explain than me.

September 8th, 2007, 8:48 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

there is nothing called Kurdestan,there is kurdish part of Iraq

September 8th, 2007, 9:52 pm


norman said:

I am proud of you Majed.

September 9th, 2007, 12:24 am


norman said:

Does anybody think that Syria will break the sound over Israel to make a point , I think they should , Thanks Ausammaa for seeing my note about not using Sam 6 in 1973 before the war.

September 9th, 2007, 12:36 am


ausamaa said:

Sure, Norman. Maybe all Syria need to do is pass over Lebanon which is considered Israeli Airspace. But I think Syria will shrug it off. If it was intemidation, Syria will put on the record for future finger-pointing and ignore it. If it was something else, Syria would keep the Israelies and Friends guessing.

I think they both know what they are doing. It is their job.

September 9th, 2007, 5:11 am


Guy Regev said:

The lend credibility to your theory.
The Israeli paper HaAretz, whose reporters probably know what this is all about, but can’t publish it because of Israeli Military censures, published today that Bolton links Syria to Korean Nuclear installations.
What is salient is that it does so in suspicious juxtaposition to the report about the syrian response to the raid.

Many signs here in Israel indicate that it was a raid and not a rucunnesence sortie. The fact that it took place at night, footage of the IDF head of staff rejoicing with his generals for no apparent reason. Hints hidden in media coverage of the incident and more.

September 9th, 2007, 6:45 am


Alex_N said:

“there is nothing called Kurdestan,there is kurdish part of Iraq”

I wouldn’t disagree with you, on a technical and juridical level. I was speaking on a functional level; the Kurds are largely functioning separately, and most Iraqis (non-kurds) I know, are not hurrying to retain them.

September 9th, 2007, 7:24 am


SimoHurtta said:

Unconfirmed Report: Syria has begun to draft reserve forces

According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Naher, reports on the partial draft of Syrian reserve troops have begun to circulate around the country.

The report said, however, that is was unclear whether the move was a reaction to Israel’s alleged over flight into Syrian airspace last week.

DEBKAfile: A partial call-up of reserves is reported in Syria by Western sources in Lebanon

September 9, 2007, 12:50 PM (GMT+02:00)

Those sources say Syria has mobilized armored, missile, air crews and air defense units – partly in readiness for repeats of alleged Israeli incursions of Syrian airspace and partly in response to the partial call-up in Israel which began beginning last Thursday, Sept 6. The Syrian armed forces are on full alert.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the silent war of nerves, started after the first Syrian allegation that Israeli bombers had violated of its airspace Thursday, continues.

Jerusalem and Damascus are straining to hold back from an open clash, but voices are rising in the Syrian army urging President Bashar Assad to retaliate militarily to the purported Israeli infringement and come out of his passivity in the face of Israeli incursions. Assaf Shawqat, Syrian military intelligence chief and the president’s brother-in-law, is the most insistent. According to Western sources, he has begun mobilizing his loyalists in the military officers’ corps.

Israeli ministers and spokesmen are under strict orders not to utter a word about the episode. Prime minister Ehud Barak opened the weekly cabinet session in Jerusalem Sunday, Sept.9, with the remark: “It is not always possible to show one’s cards.” Journalists were kept away from the ministers.

DEBKAfile’s sources doubt whether this silent poker game can be sustained either by Jerusalem or Damascus in the present state of suspense. Since the “no comments” stratagem serve Israel’s interests most, Syria is likely to make the first move; its call-up of reserves may be a straw in the wind.

In an interview with the American CBS network recorded Saturday, Assad dismissed Israel’s charges that Syria was funneling arms to Hizballah, including consignments from Iran.

He said: “Intelligence services, probably from all over the world, operate on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria and the Israelis fly over Lebanon … I told them provide us with a single evidence that we have sent one missile to Hizballah. These are fake claims.”

Syria, Assad said, supports Hizballah politically.

Assad also denied that Damascus airport is being used by terrorists as a springboard to fight the U.S. forces in Iraq. “They enter illegally across the border and we’ve managed to arrest them,” Assad stressed.

Asked to comment on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenjad’s call to wipe Israel off the map, Assad said: “This is freedom of speech. Any person in the world has the right to express himself freely. This is just an expression.”

In Rome, meanwhile, Syria’s vice president Farouk a-Shara issued an angry statement Saturday. He said his government is considering responses to Israeli jet flights over Syria and the results will not be long coming.

September 9th, 2007, 10:34 am | Letade israelerna efter koreansk vapen i syrien? said:

[…] SyriaComment – Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » Is Israel Looking for Korean Weapons in Syria? Israeli planes were on a “‘reconnaissance mission when they got caught by Syrian defenses and were forced to drop their bombs and extra fuel tanks,’ said a Western diplomat in Syria’s capital Damascus. He declined to be named. Military analysts said Israel has conducted reconnaissance flights over Syria to probe its defenses. Witnesses said several planes crossed deep into Syrian territory and flew over the oil centre of Deir al Zor on the Euphrates river.” […]

September 9th, 2007, 12:44 pm


SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » “OSyria 1″? said:

[…] The next day: 10:47 Al-Arabiya reported: IAF bombed stockpile of foreign-made missiles in Syria (from Israel Radio). […]

September 9th, 2007, 2:45 pm


Uri said:

North korea’s surprising announcement (11/9/07) that it supports syria, solidarity between the peoples etc. might provide circumstantial support for Landis claim in this blog.

I mean, N Korea,rather than arab countries, supports syria in the loudest voice?

And, why would they want to put themselves right in the middle of GWB’s “axis of evil” after they put up with so much to try and get out of it?

Reconneicence flight? I don’t think so (see comments above – relative innefectiveness of such a flight during nighttime , satellites could do the job with no risk, etc.)

But, CNN latest news (11/9/07) claims that Israeli ground forces may have also participated, and that the planes left “a big hole in the desert”. Such a scenario of a successful destruction of Nkorean hidden nukes/chemical weapons could explain Syria’s talk, Israel’s silence, US backing and N korea’s response. But, as always, it’s all just circumstantial…

September 11th, 2007, 7:13 pm


daniel said:

Dear Sir,

The operation was carried out successfully and that the target was the destruction of nuclear facilities smuggled in from north Korea.

With or without high level internal sources, you should be aware, that in such a tense period, no one in the Israeli government would risk a war with Syria unless it is a real life and death issue to the entire state of Israel.


September 11th, 2007, 10:01 pm | USA bekräftar inofficiellt Israeliskt luftangrepp på Syrien said:

[…] Det är intressant att återigen kommer spekulationerna om en nord koreansk kärnanläggning upp det Joshua Landis först nämnde i sin blog. Oavsett vad som bombades visar händelsen hur nära Syrien och Israel är till ett krig. En anledning till att ingen större hämndaktion skedde efter raketen mot Zikkim basen är tydligen att Israel inte vill dra tillbaka styrkor från norra fronten och riskera en tvåfrontskrig som en regelrätt invasion av gaza skulle bli. Och från Libanon kommer det rapporter partiellt syrisk mobilisering av reserver. […]

September 12th, 2007, 7:36 am


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