“Israel’s Syria Raid Opens Rifts ,” by Jay Solomon

Israel's Syria Raid Opens Rifts

Discord Stirs Among Allies
Over Response to Nuclear Threat

Wall Street Journal, By JAY SOLOMON
October 29, 2007

WASHINGTON — Following Israel's attack on an alleged Syrian nuclear facility, the U.S. and international community are increasingly split over how to respond to the latest nuclear-proliferation threat in the Middle East.

The discord also underscores a deep mistrust between the U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, over how to confront would-be proliferators, particularly in the wake of the Iraq war, American and IAEA officials say.

The Syria episode is exposing rifts between hard-liners in Washington and the Israeli government, which after the strike has promoted a surprisingly moderate stance toward Damascus, fearing a possible retaliation. This is in sharp contrast to Israel's position on Iran and Tehran's declared nuclear program, according to Middle East analysts.

  What's New: Divisions have emerged among U.S., Israel and the international community over how to respond to a possible Syrian nuclear threat.
  The Background: An Israeli airstrike on a site in Syria last month allegedly revealed an early attempt to develop a nuclear reactor, aided perhaps by North Korea.
  What It Means: A hardened U.S. line could push Syrians closer to Iran.

Over the past week, counterproliferation experts within and outside the U.S. government have voiced growing conviction that before Israeli aircraft struck on Sept. 6, Damascus was in initial stages of developing nuclear capability. The Israeli military refused to confirm or deny the incident. Damascus protested the attack to the U.N., but denies it has been developing nuclear technologies.

Meanwhile, commercially developed satellite photos made public by independent U.S. companies and think tanks, including Washington's Institute for Science and International Security, show what its proliferation experts said they believed was Syria's early attempt to develop a nuclear reactor, along the lines of North Korea's Yongbyon facility. These counterproliferation experts, as well as U.S. officials, cite a Syrian facility on the Euphrates River as the likely target of the Israeli attack. The facility's size, positioning and structure conform to the designs of Pyongyang's Yongbyon reactor, say U.S. officials who have seen the intelligence.

In recent days, these officials say, satellite photos show the Syrian government recently razed the site, stoking more concerns that Damascus is attempting to cover up its covert nuclear activities.

"I would say there's no doubt now that Syria was in an early phase of a program," said a senior U.S. official who has worked extensively on nuclear issues. "There's still an incredible debate about whether it was far enough along to know if it was a facility for nuclear weapons."

Syria's ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari, denied last week in New York the proliferation charges and said Washington and Israel were concocting the intelligence to weaken Damascus. "There are no nuclear sites in Syria. …All these rumors have only one justification, one goal: to cover up the Israeli aggression."

The evidence of Syrian nuclear activity has divided the IAEA on one side and the U.S. and Israel on the other. Following the air strike, IAEA President Mohamed El-Baradei asked to see the intelligence that prompted the attack.

The agency also is seeking information from Damascus about its alleged nuclear program. As a signatory to the U.N.'s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Syria is required to inform the IAEA of any attempt to develop a nuclear fuel cycle, even if it is for energy purposes only. IAEA member states such as the U.S. and Israel are also expected to share any such information concerning proliferation threats.

"At the IAEA, we have zero, and I stress 'zero' information" on the attack, Mr. El-Baradei told the French newspaper Le Monde last week. "Frankly, I venture to hope that before people decide to bombard and use force, they will come and see us to convey their concerns. We would then have gone there to check."

But U.S. and Israeli officials said they have no intention of cooperating with the IAEA on the Syria issue. Some U.S. diplomats derided the U.N. agency for failing to identify the Syrian program itself. These U.S. officials said involving the IAEA before the Israeli strike could have bogged down the Syrian proliferation threat in endless rounds of negotiations at the U.N. Security Council, with no action.

[Volatile Triangle]

"The Israelis decided to take care of this early on," said the U.S. official working on nuclear-proliferation issues. "We don't want to involve an agency that thinks it's in control, but isn't."

Israel, however, is in a delicate dance with some of its traditional allies in Washington on how to respond to the attack's repercussions. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli senior officials have voiced a continued desire in recent weeks to try to engage Syrian President Bashar Assad in peace talks. Many Israeli officials say their government and the U.S. should seek ways to woo Damascus to help stabilize the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq.

Israel's emerging strategy for handling Syria, say U.S. and Israeli officials, is to identify clear red lines for Damascus not to cross militarily, but to also keep the window open for negotiations. On the nuclear issue, these officials say, Israel is hoping the attack will serve as a deterrent, not a provocation.

"All the Israelis want is for the Syrians to know they're being watched," said the American diplomat working on nuclear-proliferation issues.

Last Friday, the Israeli military announced it was moving planned military exercises away from the disputed Golan Heights territory to avoid further heightening tensions with Syria, the Associated Press reported from Jerusalem.

The Bush administration is offering few signs it would be willing to support Israeli efforts to engage Mr. Assad. Indeed, the Bush administration has moved to ratchet up financial sanctions and travel bans on Syrian officials for alleged attempts to overthrow the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com 


IAEA chief lashes out over Israeli raid in Syria
28/10/2007 15:43

Chief UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei Sunday accused Israel of taking "the law into their own hands" with a raid on Syria and demanded more information about what was hit.

Neither Israel nor the United States has furnished "any evidence at all" to prove that the Syrian site bombed last month was a secret nuclear facility, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency told CNN.

Comments (33)

t_desco said:

I wonder who in the intelligence community or among the experts would believe that Syria could run a reactor in that place with that visibility for a year without it being detected?

October 29th, 2007, 9:25 am


Guy Regev said:

Solomon got it wrong:

“IAEA member states such as the U.S. and Israel ”

Israel is not an IAEA member.

October 29th, 2007, 12:24 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Guy, Israel is an IAEA member:

(see 1957)

October 29th, 2007, 12:44 pm


Bashmann said:

It looks more and more like nuclear site to me. If it is, that is the stupidest idea the regime has come up with so far. What a waste of credibility, and resources for a country with a dire need for an economic miracle to pull itself from falling further behind the rest of the world.


October 29th, 2007, 3:11 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

If what you say is true,and I seriously doubt it,why do you think that USA did not inform the IAEA about it? before Israel bomb it .

October 29th, 2007, 3:48 pm


norman said:

Or after .

October 29th, 2007, 3:52 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


It is not a stupid idea for the regime, it is a stupid idea for Syria. For the regime it makes a lot of sense since having a bomb would ensure that they stay in power and also give Syria an even playing field with Israel. Look how the North Korean bomb has forced Bush to accept that the Kim regime stay in power.

Asad is not stupid. He will do everything he can to preserve the regime and an a-bomb would have been very useful.

October 29th, 2007, 4:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I’d like to remind the Syrian posters that the Arabs hate the IAEA. After all, what is it good for if (according to you) Israel has 200 nuclear weapons and the IAEA can do nothing about it?

Israel has always known that the IAEA is a very weak organization that has to depend on good faith to function properly. Unfortunately, there is no good faith in the middle east. At least Israel was upfront about its intentions and didn’t sign the NPT. I always wondered why the Arabs signed it. I think it was a strategic mistake.

Complaining to the IAEA would have been playing into Syrian hands. There would have been a process of many years, over which the IAEA would check and try to inspect but in fact, Syria would continue with its nuclear plans. In addition, during this period Israel would not be able to attack because Europe and everybody would say: Why don’t you let the IAEA finish their job?

All in all, the best option for Israel was to attack now and let the IAEA figure out what happened. Now time is on Israel’s side, and not on Syria’s side.

October 29th, 2007, 4:17 pm


b said:

Bashman reads the WSJ piece which contains NOT ONE PIECE of new information and writes:

“It looks more and more like nuclear site to me.”

Propaganda works – at least on small minds.

October 29th, 2007, 4:42 pm


why-discuss said:


Israel has always known that the IAEA is a very weak organization that has to depend on good faith to function properly. Unfortunately, there is no good faith in the middle east

I wonder why Isreal stays in a such organization? for the facade?
Anyway it is well understood that Israel believes the whole UN to be a “weak” organization and that it better get served by itself. If you follow that logic and do not respect international institutions, the whole world is a self service where the strongest gets his way. Thank God for Israel, there is the protector US who keeps blocking resolution condamming Israel. Otherwise Israel would simply withdraw from that “weak” organization.

October 29th, 2007, 5:00 pm


Disaffection said:

“Egypt unveils nuclear plants plan
President Hosni Mubarak has said Egypt is to build a number of nuclear power stations to generate electricity.”

oops.. look who wants a piece of the action now. Barbura feels left out?


October 29th, 2007, 5:51 pm


t_desco said:

William M. Arkin:

“The military and intelligence officials and watchers I’ve talked to say the evidence they’ve seen is anything but definitive – though they’re getting most of what they know from the media, given how closely guarded U.S.-Israeli discussions have been.”
What’s In Those Syria Satellite Shots?
Washington Post

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis:

“Suddenly, I understand why the intelligence from Israel, as Kessler reported, was “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.”

Because we’d already looked at the building and Hadley knew what the IC would say.”
Syria and Nuclear Weapons, Again

October 29th, 2007, 6:09 pm


Bashmann said:


How do you know it is otherwise? You seem confident.
Enlighten us please since you seem to have the BIG mind!

October 29th, 2007, 6:35 pm


Alex said:


Yes, we know by now how you read any news story: you look for anyone who would agree with you that it is ALL the Syrian regime’s fault.

You don’t question their neutrality .. if they are Israelis, Neocons, Jumblatt, Saudi press …

I posed a question in the previous post to which I would like an answer:

If Israel is sure Iran will use its nuclear weapons against Israel … then should Syria need to take the high risk of building a nuclear weapons capability? .. Iran would do the job of destroying Tel Avi, no? … why should Syria spend billions on something Israel is so sure to spot and destroy with so much ease?

This reminds me of James Bond movies .. when he is captured by the agents of the Evil guy … James Bond is always put in an easily escapable prison.

I doubt Syria wanted to give Israel this opportunity to look as superior (technologically and morally) as James Bond looks compared to the evil enemy he faces… Syria.

October 29th, 2007, 6:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Simple, because Asad was not sure that Israel would spot the site and he believed Israel would act through the IAEA and he would have an opportunity to finish it. He did not believe Israel would act decisively just as Nasrallah did not beleive that Israel would act in such a way in July 2006. They are friends and share intelligence and assumptions, remember?

The site is part of the Iranian plan. The Syrians and Iranians decided not to put all the eggs in one basket and therefore had a plant also in Syria. It is quite smart when you think about it this way.

October 29th, 2007, 7:11 pm


Bashmann said:

My dear Alex,

Your enthusiasm for the regime only equals my enthusiasm for truth.
It is not about neutrality. We all can tell when columnist’s biases are evident in their reporting. It’s about the degree of trust in news agencies and their time tested methods and history.
Respected news firms, the likes of WSJ, WP, NYT, and many others have indicated and quoted many sources from inside the Whitehouse or the Administration.
Those same Western news agencies’ who have reported many times in the past regarding Iraq WMD’s prior to the American invasion, were the first to expose the administration cover-up regarding the fabrication of intelligence reports on those WMD’s. They did so without hesitation.

Logically, who would you want me to trust more? These Western news agencies, or Imad Mustapha, Walid Muallem, or SANA the official news agency of the Syrian government? There is not a single news source inside Syria that would dare to speculate or give its full report on the incident without the permission or approval of the government. If I had the choice, I would go with those Western news agencies anytime over the regime mouth-pieces who have no credibility when it comes to truth.

The matter has not been settled yet. We are still finding out more and more by the day about this mysterious site. But judging from what we collectively heard and seen, the possibility that the regime was building some sort of nuclear reactor in the middle of the desert is there and we can not completely rule it out yet.

What I said is my personal opinion, which I believe I’m entitled to on this forum.
Or you think not? 


October 29th, 2007, 8:14 pm


b said:

/quote/Bashmann said:


How do you know it is otherwise? You seem confident.
Enlighten us please since you seem to have the BIG mind!/endquote/…
Not a big mind, but … [Edited by JL to eliminate insult and profanity.]

October 29th, 2007, 8:21 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Perhaps that is what is in the satellite pictures. I should have taken that option into account.

October 29th, 2007, 8:31 pm



I am amazed that you guys are still continuing to discuss whether the site imaged was a nuclear reactor. The remarks frontpaged from a civil engineer by Joshua seemed to me decisive.

Apart from the plan dimensions of the building, every other aspect of the complex is insufficient to be a nuclear reactor.

Even if we supposed, as might well be the case, that the majority of the complex was underground, in that case the surface dimensions of the building are irrelevant, and there is no evidence at all.

The decisive point is the water supply. There is a pumping station, but the water channel is small, and cannot carry much water. Worse, there is no exit channel to lead used water back to the Euphrates. So the water was not being used for cooling.

I agree it was probably the building hit by Israel, and maybe it had something embarrassing, but it was not a nuclear reactor. The dimensions would have been enough to stimulate the trigger-happy Israelis.

October 29th, 2007, 8:46 pm


Bashmann said:


You ask

“If Israel is sure Iran will use its nuclear weapons against Israel … then should Syria need to take the high risk of building a nuclear weapons capability? .. Iran would do the job of destroying Tel Avi, no? … why should Syria spend billions on something Israel is so sure to spot and destroy with so much ease?”

Although AIG gave you good points regarding this, but let me entertain another possibility.

Bashar is the son of Hafez as we all know. What did the late Hafez corner-stone policy with Israel was built on? Military Parity. I do not believe many can argue against this.
In fact Patrick Seal, in his wonderful book “Asad: The struggle for the Middle-East”, illustrate that obsession vividly in the mind of late president. However, Asad, knew he could not and would not even throughout his lifetime be able to catch up with Israel military superiority, therefore, proxy militant groups the likes of HA, and strategic land became precious commodity as bargaining chips for him with Israel. Therefore, Syria was in Lebanon for over 29 years. Now we all know what happened in Lebanon, as Syria made its humiliating exit in 2005 after the Cedar revolution. What is left is those proxy groups that Syria seem to slowly begin to lose leverage over them, in fact, in some circles it has been reported that the young Asad has been working his agents and clients in Lebanon to move HA to carry an attack against Israel as the promised “retaliation” from Syrian officials followed strike incident. You would agree with me that this has been the preferred method of Syria in excreting pressure on Israel in times of tensions.
Unfortunately, this time HA would not and could not deliver for two reasons;

1-Naserallah have lost an incredible amount of his popularity in Lebanon due to his last year adventurous incursion in Israel the subsequent war on Lebanon that followed and destroyed the infrastructure of a country that was in the middle of an economic boom and rebound. This could have gotten him the cold feet in thinking of taking another adventure for the sake of Syria.
2- Thanks to the multinational forces any operation of this sort is hard to carry out if no longer is possible.

By losing all these leverages or influences, Bashar desire to strengthen Syria Military by acquiring such weapons is not so far fetched from reality. In fact, it’s natural to think of this when you are slowly being squeezed out as an irrelevant factor in the equation of peace. It will strengthen your hand and bring the most pressure on your enemy. Add to this the fact that throughout his upbringing he has watched his father dream of a strong Syria that can withstand a fight with Israel but could not do so because of the lack of its military capabilities, why not achieve the dream his father have always longed for?


October 29th, 2007, 8:59 pm


Alex said:

My friend Bashmann,

A reminder: parity with Israel was dropped in 1991.

Bashar in 2001 to 2003 (when the nuclear thing started supposedly) was still powerful in Lebanon

And I agree about Hizbollah not retaliating on behalf of Syria .. I was the first to write it here… the Syrians would not risk burning the Hizbollah card just before the Lebanese elections … that was possibly one of the things Cheney wanted the Syrians to do… so that their HA allies will have no influence on the next Lebanese president selection.. because Israel pounded Lebanon again after HA retaliated … ON BEHALF OF SYRIA.

But as usual .. you express it in your usual way : ) … that the Syrians are

1) Weak
2) Isolated
3) foolish

Trust me … Bashar is not that stupid … it was him who did not ask HA to retaliate… any retaliation was going to lead to war.

October 29th, 2007, 9:11 pm


Bashmann said:


I must have struck a raw nerve. Now we all know about your fine analytical abilities.


October 29th, 2007, 9:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Do you not agree that the Syrians are weak and isolated? I think that is pretty clear. Bashar and the regime are not foolish.

October 29th, 2007, 9:21 pm


Bashmann said:


Boy, you must be really connected.
Are you telling me that you have information about certain meetings that took place in the Muhajreen Palace between Bashar and Naserallah where the young president asked him not to retaliate? Please inform us of the details. I’m all ears. Seriously.


October 29th, 2007, 9:23 pm


Alex said:


Yes and no … like every other country, they are weak in some areas, strong in others.

Isolated? …. no.

While America’s friends have been obedient … never visiting Damascsu, Syria is not isolated.

Next week French foreign minister will meet with his Syrian counterpart. Spanish foreign minister, Italian … Turkish, Iranian … Qatar … UAE …Russia …

So … America and its weak Arab allies boycotted Syria. Big deal.

Israel is “Isolated” in hte sense that most Arabs would not visit Tel Aviv…. so what? … does that make Israel weak?

There are four active countries in the Middle East today

Saudi Arabia

The rest are “weak”

October 29th, 2007, 9:31 pm


Alex said:


: )

you are right. I sounded too confident there.

Anyway. Syria’s regional situation will be discussed properly on the next topic on Creative Forum. I will wait for your article. You can make your point that Syria is isolated and weak if you want and get everyone’s feedback. Many will agree with you I’m sure.

October 29th, 2007, 9:42 pm


t_desco said:

This is getting totally ridiculous:

“The photo — taken Sept. 13, 2003 by an American commercial satellite — could be proof that U.S. officials may have known about the facility long before the Israeli mission. …

“I’m sure they knew something,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, D.C. “They didn’t know it’s a reactor, that’s pretty clear (sic). I’m sure they, in scanning Syria, came across it.” …

“The Israelis stumbled upon this, were surprised and acted quickly (sic),” Albright said. “And so we don’t know what evidence they collected or (if) they just panicked and decided to act without knowing and worried about the worse case.” …

We’d like to know if Syria is going to try to build another nuclear facility or nuclear reactor someplace else,” Albright said. “Perhaps be more careful this time (sic).”
Fox News

Let’s see: according to Albright, the analysts (who were looking at much higher resolution images of the site) were unable to identify it as a reactor, but then comes along Albright, looking at commercially available satellite photos, spots a “pump station” and is “pretty convinced” (WP, Oct. 24) that the whole thing is a nuclear reactor. And then he goes on to suggest that it took the Israelis at least four years (!) to discover a site of that size…

October 29th, 2007, 9:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I guess we are not speaking the same language?
What is an “active” country? What makes Syria “acive” and Jordan and th UAE not active?

The known methods to decide whther a country is weak are to check its economic and military situation. Also stability in some cases.

Syria is weak both economically and militarily and is therefore weak.

October 29th, 2007, 10:00 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Alex said:

“Israel is “Isolated” in hte sense that most Arabs would not visit Tel Aviv…. so what? … does that make Israel weak?”

Alex, the question is not when will officials from the main Arab countries will visit Tel Aviv, but rather when will they finally visit Damascus?

Don’t you feel that Syria should first make peace with the Arab countries and only then with Israel? 😉

October 29th, 2007, 10:02 pm


Alex said:


Today I did about 3 hours of actual work : )

The rest here! … and I am now writing my piece for Creative Syria. I will address this question in it.

In two days, I hope.


Active as in … here

October 29th, 2007, 10:22 pm


Alex said:


I am starting to enjoy the humor in this nuclear …thing.

I have another possibility though: Neocons and Israel will release more “information” and the NYT will tell us about more valuable “leaks” which will be damaging to Syria … if Syria does not behave as desired in both Lebanon and the peace conference.

Maybe they designed the whole story in a way that ensures it will last few months. You have to remember that the Hariri investigation is not going to be in the news anytime in the near future… you know .. they need to keep the pressure on Syria like they did on a daily basis through the Hariri investigation and the many stories their fine P.R. experts fabricated …

We have analyzed Bolton’s newer inventions. Let us remember his strategy.

So he just gave the administration a long term pressure tool.

October 29th, 2007, 10:36 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

Alex, don’t work so hard.
Try to reduce it to 2 hours per day max : )

And don’t worry.
Even when you’re at work, me and AIG are here, monitoring the situation to everybody’s satisfaction.

October 29th, 2007, 10:37 pm


ausamaa said:

AIG and IG

Are you ASSIGNED to monitor the situation??? Not beyound your lot’s practices? Is it?

October 30th, 2007, 4:08 am


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