NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: “Nuclear project” – story still under construction

Analysts find Israel struck a nuclear project inside Syria

Israel’s air attack on Syria last month was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel, according to American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports.

The description of the target addresses one of the central mysteries surrounding the Sept. 6 attack, and suggests that Israel carried out the raid to demonstrate its determination to snuff out even a nascent nuclear project in a neighboring state. The Bush administration was divided at the time about the wisdom of Israel’s strike, American officials said, and some senior policy makers still regard the attack as premature.
The officials did not say that the administration had ultimately opposed the Israeli strike, but that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were particularly concerned about the ramifications of a pre-emptive strike in the absence of an urgent threat.

“There wasn’t a lot of debate about the evidence,” said one American official familiar with the intense discussions over the summer between Washington and the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. “There was a lot of debate about how to respond to it.”
The partly constructed Syrian reactor was detected earlier this year by satellite photographs, according to American officials. They suggested that the facility had been brought to American attention by the Israelis, but would not discuss why American spy agencies seemed to have missed the early phases of construction.

North Korea has long provided assistance to Syria on a ballistic missile program, but any assistance toward the construction of the reactor would have been the first clear evidence of ties between the two countries on a nuclear program. North Korea has successfully used its five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex to reprocess nuclear fuel into bomb-grade material, a model that some American and Israeli officials believe Syria may have been trying to replicate.
While Bush administration officials have made clear in recent weeks that the target of the Israeli raid was linked to North Korea in some way, Mr. Bush has not repeated his warning since the attack. In fact, the administration has said very little about the country’s suspected role in the Syria case, apparently for fear of upending negotiations now under way in which North Korea has pledged to begin disabling its nuclear facilities.

While the partly constructed Syrian reactor appears to be based on North Korea’s design, the American and foreign officials would not say whether they believed the North Koreans sold or gave the plans to the Syrians, or whether the North’s own experts were there at the time of the attack. It is possible, some officials said, that the transfer of the technology occurred several years ago. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — In spite of the fact that hard evidence has yet to be produced, let’s for now take it as given that Syria was building some type of nuclear facility and that it was destroyed by an Israeli air attack. Although the Times notes, as has been repeated so often, that “information about the raid has been wrapped in extraordinary secrecy,” the question — why the secrecy? — remains all important.

Suppose Israel was reluctant to be perceived as having acted without US support and it waited until it got the green light from Washington — except, when the green light came, it came from the Vice President’s office. Now that would be one incredibly compelling reason for secrecy from all quarters! That’s something neither Cheney, nor Bush, nor Olmert could afford to reveal.

Of course I speculate, but while this story remains so murky, speculation will be rife.

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One thought on “NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: “Nuclear project” – story still under construction

  1. Ian Arbuckle

    Who is a threat to global security or in defiance of the IAEA?

    It is the obligation of all members with information pertaining to the proliferation of nuclear technology for non-peaceful application to report such activities through the proper channels to the IAEA for investigation and for further action if evidence is supported by fact.

    If the facts on a Syrian reactor could be substantiated then why not bring them to the attention of the “legal” authority?

    Israel is itself a rogue nuclear state, according to substantiated evidence and the US is in defiance not only of its obligations to IAEA but in respect of its own laws in providing economic, technical and military support to a nation with clandestine nuclear arms.

    It is in fact the behaviour outside the institutions and agreements of nations by countries such as the US and Israel that is providing the greatest cause for concern and degeneration of global security. Proliferation is not dissuaded by cowboy action, threat or force but by agreement and guarantees of security. Bombing a country just increases the race to more and better weaponry in the name of defence.

    It is not enough to wear a mantle of righteous indignation in the UN Security Council when it suits and flaunt regulations which are there for a purpose and apply to all. This black hat vs. white hat cowboy business, while in pursuit of other, more sinister geo-political, aims has never been accepted by thinking people outside the domestic US audience as anything other than a pathetic theatre.

    Such action by Israel as this apparent air strike on Syria should be condemned by all in the international community and Israel’s own nuclear armament brought into question and made subject to stringent sanctions. Removing Israel’s Nuclear capability would be a major step forwards to reducing a prime incentive for proliferation in the ME. Ironically, I think it was Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who first called for a nuclear free ME.

    The global reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons is the stated goal of the IAEA and NPT, but the US exhibits shameful hypocrisy as they see themselves and their allies excluded, but for lip service, from those aims and the rules that they entail, while they develop new and sophisticated weaponry, and use the self same rules and weapons to threaten others thereby making a mockery of 60 odd years of efforts since Hiroshima and Nagasaki to eliminate these most hideous and inhuman devices of immeasurable suffering.

    This general insanity and this incident in particular are just further examples of what makes US policy abhorrent and a true threat to global security.

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