EDITORIAL: Deconstructing the neocon nuclear narrative

Deconstructing the neocon nuclear narrative

Why can the neocons never get their story straight?

Because they’ve figured out the ending but they’re still working on the plot.

The end is the end of the Islamic State of Iran, but the first draft of the narrative that was supposed to lead there — through Baghdad — took a major detour, providing Iran with the opportunity to become more powerful than ever.

Even so, a few lessons have been learned from the atrociously written Iraq story.

Don’t talk about “WMD,” is one such lesson. The only weapons worth talking about (as frequently as possible) are nuclear. Fortunately (if you’re a neocon) the press continues to be as obliging as ever in repeating whatever you say.

So it is that a story with strong legs but a very frail body has managed to keep running since September 6 in spite of the fact that we know little more now than we did when the story broke.

This is how Charles Krauthammer keeps up the momentum:

On Sept. 6, something important happened in northern Syria. Problem is, no one knows exactly what. Except for those few who were involved, and they’re not saying.

We do know that Israel carried out an airstrike. How do we know it was important? Because in Israel, where leaking is an art form, even the best-informed don’t have a clue. They tell me they have never seen a better-kept secret.

Which suggests that whatever happened near Dayr az Zawr was no accidental intrusion into Syrian airspace, no dry run for an attack on Iran, no strike on some conventional target such as an Iranian Revolutionary Guard base or a weapons shipment on its way to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Circumstantial evidence points to this being an attack on some nuclear facility provided by North Korea.

This pure neocon Zen! We know so much because we know so little.

Except, a story really is emerging — it just happens not to fit the neocon narrative. The story comes from two places. Two voices who’ve both been told the same story, or two independent corroborating sources? Not sure. My source is the ever-useful Arms Control Wonk (Dr. Jeffrey Lewis) and he relates the Nelson Report account, while one of his commentors passes along information from an Intelligence Online report.

This is what Nelson says:

we have absolutely solid information that the Israeli bombing raid on Syria was aimed at…and took out…missiles and/or weapons parts. Period.

All the stories being floated about Israeli intelligence sources hinting that it was a North Korean/Syrian nuclear weapons project, or site, are BS, albeit of varying motivation.

What remains under some debate is whether the missiles/parts can be 100% ascribed to N. Korea. Most unclassified evidence … points at Pyongyang. [September 19, and then on September 20:]
So for what its worth, our best sources continue to maintain the intel, such as it is, confirms “missiles and/or weapons parts”, most likely from N. Korea, and possibly including a Russian radar installation (which might have been helping guard the site).

Nothing nuclear.

And then the French site, Intelligence Online, is recounted as having reported:

In attacking Dair el Zor in Syria on Sept. 6, the Israeli air force wasn’t targeting a nuclear site but rather one of the main arms depots in the country.

Dair el Zor houses a huge underground base where the Syrian army stores the long and medium-range missiles it mostly buys from Iran and North Korea. The attack by the Israeli air force coincided with the arrival of a stock of parts for Syria’s 200 Scud B and 60 Scud C weapons.

The parts were shipped from North Korea aboard a container ship flying the Panamanian flag. The U.S. Navy wanted to board the ship in Morocco’s territorial waters but Rabat vetoed the operation. The parts were loaded aboard six trucks in the Syrian port of Tartus on Sept. 3 and took three days to reach Dair el Zor. The trucks and their loads were destroyed the moment they arrived at the underground base. A unit of military police that escorted the convoy was also wiped out in the attack.

Damascus immediately appealed to several Palestinian groups with strong ties to Syria to retaliate. But Hamas, whose strategy chief Khaled Meshal lives in exile in Syria, refused to act. That was also the case of Hezbollah, which sent its political adviser, Hussein Khalil, to Damascus to signify the movement’s reluctance to strike back at Israel.

Khalil, who met with the head of Syrian military intelligence, gen. Assef Chawkat, as well as the official in charge of Lebanese affairs in the president’s office, gen. Mohamed Nassif, claimed that Israel would launch a new invasion of southern Lebanon if Hezbollah began firing at Israeli targets.

It was finally Islamic Jihad in Palestine, a small movement headed by Ramadan Shallah and financed by Tehran, that fired two Nasser and Qods missiles at the Trilim base in the Negev desert on Sept. 12, wounding 70 Israeli soldiers who were sleeping when the missiles struck.

In addition, in a possibly related development, AP reports that:

A Syrian military installation rocked by an explosion in July was being used to develop chemical weapons, and Iranian engineers were among those killed, a defense publication reported yesterday [September 19].

Jane’s Defence Weekly said the July 26 explosion took place at the site of a joint Iranian/Syrian project to fit short-range ballistic missiles with chemical warheads. It cited Syrian defense sources as saying it happened during a test to fit a “Scud C” missile with a mustard-gas warhead when fuel caught fire at the production site.

“The blast dispersed chemical agents across the storage facility and outside,” the publication quoted the sources as saying. The chemical agents included VX and Sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent.

On the day of the explosion, Syria’s state news agency SANA said the blast struck a military complex outside the city of Aleppo, killing at least 15 soldiers and wounding 50.

The timing of the release of the Jane’s report is curious — two months after the event, but just in time to link to the Israeli attack — and the location of the explosion is different from that of the Israeli attack. Even so, one would have thought that this report would give the neocons even more to shout about. Not so. Krauthammer’s comment is that “Syria has long had chemical weapons — on Monday, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported on an accident that killed dozens of Syrians and Iranians loading a nerve-gas warhead onto a Syrian missile — but Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Syria.”

Why would he (and Israel) sound so relaxed about chemical weapons? Because as dangerous as they are, they do little to buttress the argument that Iran presents an existential threat to the Jewish state. It’s a nuclear story or no story at all — at least for those looking through the prism of World War IV.

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3 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: Deconstructing the neocon nuclear narrative

  1. Blacksmith Jade

    Hi Paul,

    I put up a similar piece several weeks ago. While your take is negative on the “option” of an assault on Syria, however, mine is that of cautious optimism…very cautious optimism.

    My positive attitude towards such a hit stems from my being in Lebanon and having witnessed first hand the Syrian dictatorship’s historical (and continuing) use of instruments of terror on my countrymen and women. The argument, which I’m neither wholly convinced of nor willing to completely disregard, is that a hit on Syria would dislodge the assassin-regime there and provide the Lebanese with a respite from the ongoing assault on the state and the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority we’ve been subject to. Any negative fallout from the hit could be limited to Syria – and not Lebanon – by the fact that the dislodging of the regime would free those pro-Syrian elements active in the country from the obligation to go down with the sinking regime’s ship and realign with the more US-friendly political movements. This argument, holds most true for the Christians among the pro-Syrian ranks. For the Shiites, there will continue to be Hizballah – fully armed, trained, and funded from Iran – but they would surely find an untrusting partner in Amal and its leader Nabih Berri, who is a political chamellion well-acquainted with the business of realignment.

    As for extremist Sunni groups present in Lebanon, there is a danger that turmoil in Syria would provide a magnet for global jihadists. In Lebanon, however, the presence of such groups has, for the most part, been an integral strategy of the Syrian regime’s strategy for interfering in our internal affairs. Generally, the strategy is made up of creating instability in Lebanon and then “coming to our aide”. A dislodgement of the Syrian regime would provide a break in the central nervous system coordinating these groups across the country, allowing the Lebanese Army to (hopefully) finish them off one at a time.

    Anyway, its a risky move, thats for sure, and yes it is absolutely part of the build up towards eventually knocking off Iran. But from the standpoint of a Lebanese who is tired of seeing his country being used as a limb of Iran’s regional policy (through Hizballah) and as a playground for Syria’s looting and assissinating intelligence agencies and regime, it might just be worth the risk.

    On another note, I’m always interested in engaging people with varying opinions on the web. If you’re interested in a blog links exchange, feel free to email me at blacksmithsoflebanon@gmail.com


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