The Internet’s been abuzz lately with speculation about the Israeli air-raid nearly two weeks ago on a secret facility in northeastern Syria. At first thought to be an attack on weapons being shipped from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon, rumors now swirl around the possibility that this was a nuclear weapons research station, and that the material had come from North Korea:
IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syriaâs formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.
At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.
Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.
The Israeli government was not saying. âThe security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,â said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. âWe naturally cannot always show the public our cards.â
The Syrians were also keeping mum. âI cannot reveal the details,â said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. âAll I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.â The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiâite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.
Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from âsecret suppliersâ, and added that there were a ânumber of foreign techniciansâ in the country.
Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: âThere are North Korean people there. Thereâs no question about that.â He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistanâs nuclear weapons, could be involved.
The Times article makes it clear that few believe this facility was just a warehouse for Hizbullah-bound weapons. The presence of North Koreans is a very suspicious sign that something unusual was up: North Korea right now is in the midst of very sensitive negotiations to (supposedly) take down its nuclear program. Was Syria acting as a hiding place wherein the North Koreans could continue their research, in return for sharing? It’s telling that North Korea quickly denounced the attack, while they usually stay quiet on affairs outside their own area. And it’s long been suspected that Syria has been hiding WMDs smuggled out of Iraq before Saddam’s fall, so doing the same for Pyongyang would fit a pattern of behavior. (I should note, however, that there’s no hard evidence that Syria has Iraqi WMDs in storage. Just strong suspicions.)
Another possibility is that this research was for Iran’s benefit: perpetually strapped for cash, North Korea may have agreed to sell its stocks to Iran, so they could accelerate their own program. In that case, Syria, an Iranian client, would be a convenient shipping point.
Of course, the nukes could be for Syria’s own use, too. They’ve long been known to be developing chemical weapons, though nuclear weapons were considered beyond their financial grasp. However, if they are getting outside help from Iran, North Korea, and the Khan network, they might well have been working to adapt their supply of SCUD missiles to carry them. In a confrontation with Israel, playing the "we have nukes" card would dramatically change the power-balance between Damascus and Jerusalem.
And thus Israel could not tolerate even the possibility of Syria getting them. Just as with the raid against the Iraqi "Osirak" reactor in 1981, Israel, when convinced its national security is at stake, has shown it will take whatever action it deems necessary, world opinion be damned.
Besides the destruction of the compound itself, there are several messages in this latest Israeli action. First is the one to Syria and its leader,
Chinless Wonder Bashar Assad: "Not only will we never allow you nuclear weapons but, by the way, boy, we can penetrate your expensive air-defense systems at will." (And, since the Russians were the main providers of this AA system, this is a lot of egg on their faces.)
Second is a message to Iran: "We hit Syria, whose air-defenses are better than yours, and don’t think we won’t hit you, too. Distance is not a problem." You can bet the
black-robed fascists rulers in Tehran are paying close attention. (And probably wondering about all the money they, too, paid the Russians for their air-defense weapons.)
Third is to us and the Europeans: "Do something about Iran or we will do it for you, perhaps triggering a regional war."
There’s one other question. This Syrian "agricultural station" was on the other side of the country, 50 miles from the Iraqi border. Yet there was an Israeli commando team there to paint the target. How’d they get there? I suppose they could have traveled across Syria, but I somehow doubt it. I also don’t think they were airdropped all the way from Israel. But, just 50 miles to the east, their primary ally and patron has a large army with plenty of resources for staging special forces operations. And that same ally has a strong interest in not letting Iran or Syria get their hands on nuclear weapons.
Did the Israelis have active American cooperation in this raid? I’d like to think so.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the Israelis have provided an object lesson in how to deal with thugs: make it clear what you will and will not tolerate, and then act on it. Appeasing people who will only take advantage of your gestures of good faith and then spit in your eye is a recipe for disaster. They will gladly come to the all the conferences you want and say whatever they think you want to hear in their press releases, but the end result is the same: unless they are convinced you will use overwhelming force, rogue nations and their leaders will do whatever they want and laugh in your face.
It’s a lesson we’d do well to remember.
LINKS: More from the Center-Right at Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs, The Strata-Sphere, Little Green Footballs, Blue Crab Boulevard, and Captain’s Quarters. On the Left, the view at Firedoglake is typical.