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Tilting at Windmills

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September 21, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE SYRIA-NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR CONNECTION....I don't know how closely you've all been following the story of the Israeli air strike in Syria a couple of weeks ago, but in one of the initial accounts of the raid the New York Times slipped in a suggestion that the target of the attack was a nuclear installation that had been acquired from North Korea. It was kind of weird because this allegation popped up casually in about the seventh paragraph of the story and then popped back out without a trace.

Since then the nuclear story has continued to putter along in the background, but most observers have discounted it. The consensus seemed to be that it was just some garden variety saber rattling, maybe from Cheney's shop, and in fact the raid was actually a test of Syrian air defenses or perhaps a dry run for attacking Iran. Or a raid against a Hezbollah weapons dump. Or something.

Well, maybe so. But today the Washington Post has a long front-page story that puts the nuclear scenario front and center again. The whole thing is still murky, since everyone seems to agree that it doesn't really make sense, but it's now pretty hard to ignore. Either someone is dead serious about planting some disinformation about a Syria-North Korea nuclear connection in the press, or else there really is such a connection. I don't know what to think about it myself, but it's now officially a story to follow.

Kevin Drum 2:37 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (76)

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Comments

Kevin, typo in 1st sentence (Iraqi -> Israeli).

Posted by: JS on September 21, 2007 at 2:40 AM | PERMALINK

Netanyahu spilled the beans to a reporter.

Interesting.

Posted by: Old Hat on September 21, 2007 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

The target of Israel's attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. A Middle East expert who interviewed one of the pilots involved said they operated under such strict operational security that the airmen flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know the details of the mission. The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air, he said. Syrian authorities said there were no casualties.

I've read this at two different sites now, and it makes no sense to me.

Can someone explain this to me?

What value is it to brief the pilots AFTER they are in the air? Shouldn't the pilots be studying imagery of the targets and reviewing route and entry / exit routes and the like?

If you can trust Dan to bomb a site, why can't you trust Dan before he hops in the plane to brief him on his mission?

Would we, do we, ever do such a thing with our pilots?

Posted by: jerry on September 21, 2007 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

i think you mean israel. have you been reading closely?

Posted by: ben on September 21, 2007 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

jerry: If you can trust Dan to bomb a site, why can't you trust Dan before he hops in the plane to brief him on his mission?

Because OPSEC is OPSEC, and the rules must be followed. (And yes, we would--and often do--such a thing.) Obviously given the current situation such an op would be considered extremely sensitive, nukes or not.

That the spin on the stories suggests a connection to nukes seems to suggest something more than a garden-variety strike. While the possibility of a Syria/Iran/DPRK connection at this juncture should not to be discounted, that it's being reported in the MSM at this time seems odd.

Someone is intentionally making this a issue--whether it's more or less than it appears is TBD.

Posted by: has407 on September 21, 2007 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

Either someone is dead serious about planting some disinformation about a Syria-North Korea nuclear connection in the press"

And the neocons at the NYT and WashPost reliably pass it along.

Posted by: luci on September 21, 2007 at 4:19 AM | PERMALINK

2:37 a.m.?

Kevin, It's past your bedtime....

Posted by: global yokel on September 21, 2007 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

I vote for disinformation. Cheney and boys are testing the waters again.

Posted by: pol on September 21, 2007 at 6:45 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with the nuclear facility claim is that it's being bolstered by comments from people like John Bolton and Bibi Netanyahu. Even if the initial claim appeared credible, every time one of these jerks opens his mouth, the credibility of the claim goes down. Furthermore, Israeli press is pointing to "Bush administration officials" as the sources of this version of the story. That sounds like a really trustworthy source... NOT! So even if the claim is true, all the sources behind it are reducing its credibility, which is quite unusual for stories of this caliber. Meanwhile, Syria is blaming bad US intelligence for the attack.

But... at another facility, a Syrian SCUD blew up, killing a bunch of Iranians who were supposedly helping Syrians to set it up--some claim, as a part of a chemical weapons program. This is such a bungling bunch that it's hard to believe they could even get this far.

Posted by: buck on September 21, 2007 at 6:57 AM | PERMALINK

This should come as no surprise.

We've known since 2001, when the President told us, that North Korea is part of the Axis of Evil. Naturally they are trying to recruit other countries into their fold.

Posted by: Al on September 21, 2007 at 7:07 AM | PERMALINK

HaHaHA, what a perfect timing! The informed consensus just became it was nothing but scud missiles.

ACW: Did Israel Strike a Syrian Nuclear Facility?
Short answer: no
First sentence of the story: "no."

ACW (HT Chris Nelson rpt): Ah, They Were Scuds

Netanyahu: Yeah, we did that
The rest of Israel: "STFU!!!"

ACW: Extracting Uranium from Phosphates
Short version: nothing to get excited about

NTI background

Hell, even the hawkish version just became scuds+chemical weapons

> Either someone is dead serious about planting
> some disinformation about a Syria-North Korea
> nuclear connection in the press, or else there
> really is such a connection.

There may be a missile connection (same with US pal Yemen), but nuclear?

Its wasn`t just Iraqi weapons accusations that sabotaged talks and then unfortunatly turned out to be based in error. Someone figured North Korea didn`t just do plutonium, it also had a parallel uranium program. That accusation got the North Koreans and the US upset, talks fell apart... North Korea tested a nuke, and then the US came back to the table to accept the freeze it could still have had.

Of course part of such a freeze should be the suspension of any and all uranium enrichment programs... Which the US suddenly admitted probably didn`t excist. OOPS... blew up the talks over nothing, sorry about that.

Of course the "freeze" has to be be called "disablement" instead, because Bush passionately hates Anything Clinton did to his dads legacy, like a pre-bomb nuclear freeze in North Korea. And "disablement" is the kind of word junior can agree with.

I also recall Bolton saying things about the biological weapons program of.... Cuba. I kid thee not! Of course that coincided with some in DC wondering if the whole cold war treatment is really helping Cubans, Cuban Americans or democracy...

Cuba has a (fox news: "soviet era") medical/pharmaceutical base... Watch out, they are breeding germs!!
Syria wants to create fertilizer to build an economy, so they removed the dangerous but useless natural uranium from phosphates... Duck! they got a nuke!!

And yes nuclear electricity makes economic sense for Iran. In fact, the US was eager to help out the Shah with reactors. And all the messing around with fuel sanctions only emphasizes the economic security Iran would get from making its own nuclear fuel. On a side note, I wouldn`t trust them with half a centrifuge. Especially without signing the NPT additional protocol.

So when I hear a neocon or Cheney/Rummy-ite hawk talk not about the real Iranian program, but about the perceived intentions with that program. Or maybe about terrorists with nukes, then all I can think of is their track record.

Its not just the "Iraqi WMD`s". Sure, the CIA toke the blame and democrats still don`t want to release phase II (right? I try to follow that story, even if it doesn`t officially deserve it). That doesn`t mean there was no disinformation going on.

My pet theory?:
The Rummy/Cheney/Bolton wing is simply inspired by the pressure they and their starwars/"bio, cough, defence"/"replacement warhead"/testing get from arms control fans and international law... so whenever they don`t like a foreign leader they sick on them the thing they themselfs struggle with so often. They think the UN oriented rest of the world cant ignore a good old WMD accusation.

And in the specific case of Syria its worth noting that if scaring Iran fails then Bush has failed in all three of the Axis of evil. Rummy/Cheney hawks dont care that much about Lebanon/Syria. Thats more a neocon thing.

Posted by: asdf on September 21, 2007 at 7:10 AM | PERMALINK

I'm interested in the Buddhist monks' protest in Burma, and would like to hear some pulled-out-of-the-ass commentary on the uproar.

Posted by: absent observer on September 21, 2007 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

Furthermore, Israeli press is pointing to "Bush administration officials" as the sources of this version of the story. That sounds like a really trustworthy source... NOT!

The Israeli press is prohibited by the military censor from reporting on the matter directly.

Consequently all Israeli reports on the incident are summaries from the foreign press.

Posted by: Tel Aviv on September 21, 2007 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

The consensus seemed to be that it was just some garden variety saber rattling, maybe from Cheney's shop, and in fact the raid was actually a test of Syrian air defenses or perhaps a dry run for attacking Iran.

Consensus among whom? Since there is so little real info available it makes little difference how Peter Beaumont of the Observer reads the tea leaves.

Posted by: Tel Aviv on September 21, 2007 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

And the neocons at the NYT and WashPost reliably pass it along.


Oh yeah the NYT is just SO neocon.

Posted by: Tel Aviv on September 21, 2007 at 7:35 AM | PERMALINK

Nothing to see here. Move along, move along...

Sincerely,
The Pot-Bellied Commie Dictator
The Chinless Nazi Dictator

Posted by: nikkolai on September 21, 2007 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, Tel Aviv, on the news side, the NYT has many reporters (and some editors) who if not neocons are sympathetic to (and conveyors of) that point of view. It wasn't just Judith Miller. The hiring (and firing) practices under the editorship of A.M. Rosenthal and others has affected how the Times covers stories (especially involving foreign policy and national secuirty); one saw it first in the 1980s in coverage of Central America and "old" Europe. And the Times coverage of Middle East issues has always had somewhat defined limits, which has long helped shape coverage of these issues throughout U.S. news media.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on September 21, 2007 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

The Israelis don't put their pilots at risk for nothing.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 21, 2007 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Some North Korean experts said they are puzzled why, if the reports are true, Pyongyang would jeopardize the hard-won deal with the United States and the other four countries. "It does not make any sense at all in the context of the last nine months," said Charles "Jack" Pritchard, a former U.S. negotiator with North Korea and now president of the Korea Economic Institute.

Sounds about right to me.

Posted by: TJM on September 21, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

This makes very little sense. What could the North Koreans provide which would be so large that it could be taken out in a single strike? They would not likely have been supplying a small breeder reactor and it certainly would not have been erected in the time frame being discussed. Any parts for centrifuges would be dispersed. Obsolescent enrichment equipment the North Korean's were trying to dump on the market before its economic value equaled its technical value? The most important product the North Koreans could provide would be the technical information and blueprints for building the systems to enrich uranium. Could the Israelis have been bombing crates and crates of paper?

Posted by: PrahaPartizan on September 21, 2007 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Disinformation? This administration?

I can say with confidence that this administratino would never even consider engaging in a disinformation campaign with the purpose of enlisting the support of the American public for a foreign war.

Posted by: chuck on September 21, 2007 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

From TNR 7/17/06:

"Why Israel Should Bomb Syria"

(quote)

....The lesson is especially pertinent to the current crisis. Then, as now, the Syrians have goaded a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, to launch raids against Israel from Lebanon. Then, as now, the rapid rise of terrorist attacks has forced Israel to mount reprisals. If the Soviets in 1967 wanted to divert America's attention from Vietnam, the Iranians--Syria's current sponsors--want to divert American attention from their nuclear-arms program. And once again Israel must decide when to strike back and against whom....

The answer lies in delivering an unequivocal blow to Syrian ground forces deployed near the Lebanese border. By eliminating 500 Syrian tanks--tanks that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad needs to preserve his regime--Israel could signal its refusal to return to the status quo in Lebanon. Supporting Hezbollah carries a prohibitive price, the action would say. Of course, Syria could respond with missile attacks against Israeli cities, but given the dilapidated state of Syria's army, the chances are greater that Assad will simply internalize the message. Presented with a choice between saving Hezbollah and staying alive, Syria's dictator will probably choose the latter. And the message of Israel's determination will also be received in Tehran.

Any course of military action carries risks, especially in the unpredictable Middle East. But if the past is any guide, and if the Six Day War presents a paradigm of an unwanted war that might have been averted with an early, well-placed strike at Syria, then Israel's current strategy in Lebanon deserves to be rethought. If Syria escapes unscathed and Iran undeterred, Israel will remain insecure.

(end quote)

So hint at a nuclear program and anything will be excused.

Posted by: Neal on September 21, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Its a load of bunk. The only clear interest the Syrians have with North Korea is missile parts. Check out armscontrolwonk.com for more realistic reporting that the naive comments made in the post.

Posted by: paul on September 21, 2007 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds, seems, and is likely a propaganda tie-in - Axis of Evil Weapons of Mass Destruction Part III- for a coming Israeli-Syrian conflict. It has nothing to do with nuclear weapons, or Hezbollah, or Lebanon per se.

While the world’s attention is riveted on the conflict in Iraq and a possible American attack on Iran, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad may be quietly preparing for a war against Israel.[...]

The first step was taken in January 2005. In an apparent effort to reassert Moscow’s power in the Middle East, Russian President Vladimir Putin forgave Damascus three quarters of its debt; the rest, it seems, has now been paid by Iran. This agreement enabled the Syrians to start rebuilding their armed forces.

Damascus began by completing the large array of surface-to-surface Scud missiles that, with North Korean help, they had been building throughout the 1990s. As a result, they now have several hundred such missiles. Some are armed with chemical warheads, and some are capable of reaching just about any target inside Israel.

Of late, the Syrians have gone on a real shopping spree. They have bought Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles and anti-ship missiles capable of being launched either by sea or by land. The equipment in question is modern and extremely sophisticated. Some of it has yet to even enter service in Russia itself — and much of it is as good as, if not better than, anything found in the West.

War Clouds Gather Over the Golan
Martin van Creveld
The Forward
March 9, 2007

Posted by: bellumregio on September 21, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

"Of late, the Syrians have gone on a real shopping spree. They have bought Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles and anti-ship missiles . . . "

All of which are defensive by nature.

" . . . capable of being launched either by sea or by land."

By the Syrian Navy?

"The equipment in question is modern and extremely sophisticated. Some of it has yet to even enter service in Russia itself . . ."

AKA prototypes. Apparently the Syrians have hired on as Russia's beta-testers.

" . . . — and much of it is as good as, if not better than, anything found in the West."

The brochures or the product? Lockheed-Martin's gonna love that.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on September 21, 2007 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Ain't that cute! We're actually present at the birth of a Big Lie. As usual the parents are the WaPo and the NYT, recklessly passing out conditional unattributed statements like cigars. Like Topsy, the story will grow...and grow...and grow.

It's the country-club Republican form of ghetto rap.

Posted by: serial catowner on September 21, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

"The Israelis don't put their pilots at risk for nothing."

What risk? It appears the Syrians have no serious anti-aircraft weapons if the Israeli warplanes were able to so easily violate Syrian airspace and attack a Syrian facility.

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on September 21, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Totally OT, but just because Kevin kept posting about the NYT editorialists recently-- NYT now has a little chart up on the op-ed page saying when each of the contributors has a column. I just mention it because as far as I noticed they didn't have it before. Neat.

Posted by: Swan on September 21, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

The story really makes no sense at all. North Korea has exported a hell of a lot of ballistic missile, chemical and even biological equipment and expertise, but comparatively little -- if any -- nuclear technology (especially as compared to something like the AQK network).

And while NK has had success in evading international shipping controls in the past (reflagging freighters, sailing around Africa to avoid the Suez Canal in 1990-1991, using Cyprus, Yugoslavia and Iran as transshipment points), I'm not sure how you could reasonably hope to package a turnkey enrichment plant as cement -- cement is generally shipped as free-running cargo, and marking a bunch of 40ft shipping containers as "cement" is going to raise red flags all over the place. (At a guess, I'd say dry explosive material like HMX would be easier to fraudulently ship that way, and could arguably be used as part of a nuclear program.)

As for Syria, it's never shown much of an interest in a nuclear program, concentrating on importing and producing ballistic, chemical and biological weapons. It's had some longstanding IAEA-authorized test programs and a lot of interest in extracting uranium from its abundant phosphate reserves, but uranium extraction itself is no red line, and the U.S. wouldn't have needed Israel to tell us about any kind of industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant being installed in Syria.

Basically, I would have cheerfully stipulated on assertion the existence of anything from conventional weapons in transit to Hizbullah to M-11 TELs with CW warheads. But alleging that NK is exporting turnkey nuc gear to Syria without providing proof and with no historical precedent -- well, that's just plain suspicious.

Posted by: WatchfulBabbler on September 21, 2007 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Occam's razor: the simplest explanation is that Israel had a reason to whack something in particular in Syria.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 21, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

we are in ww3


Hypocrite Hillary(DC Experience Matters?JFK & Bill HAD LIL

This Video Is Showing That Hillary is a hypocrite for saying obama has no experience

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBy3AKn_2Fk

Posted by: kyle on September 21, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Pocket, Syria basically gave up its air force in the 1980s in favor of buying a *lot* of air defense systems, so it's not like they couldn't have flown into something with teeth. But Russia has so far refrained from selling its most dangerous anti-air systems (S-300 SAMs and Iglas) to Syria, due primarily to Israeli-Russian diplomatic talks.

Posted by: WatchfulBabbler on September 21, 2007 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

One of the most amazing things about propaganda is how it doesn't stand up to simple reflection, not to mention analysis. Probability is replaced by possibility and then we are in the realm of the 1 percent crowd. I was going to type an incredulous remark about technology transfers, the history of these regimes and how ridiculous this all is but WatchfulBabbler made the point.

Posted by: bellumregio on September 21, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

The London Times had this story 5 days ago http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article2461421.ece

Their report is based on the same rumors as WaPo's. It doesn't add to the credibility.

Assuming the story is true, I'm annoyed that Israel and the US are officially not talking. If Syria is receiving nuclear material from NK that's important news that the world ought to hear.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 21, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Assuming the story is true, I'm annoyed that Israel and the US are officially not talking.

Posted by: ex-liberal

Exactly. For Israel to hit a target in Syria -- with our approval and apparently based partly on our intelligence -- and for these clowns not to inform the both Congress and the American people AFTER THE FACT is nonsense.

Once again, these clowns are not leaving office before they set the whole region on fire.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 21, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

This event happened two weeks ago, and it wasn't even big news. A little story came out in the Jerusalem Post a few days later, and then the Brits talked about it a little over a week later. What gives? Seven years ago, what Israel did would have been an act of war. Today, it's still a back story with musings about what really happened. Please furnish an explanation why this wasn't mainstream news.

Posted by: DC on September 21, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Given the neocon strategy of invading first Iraq, then Syrian and Iran, and the fact that the first stage has already been carried out by Busch, then by any standard other than Jewish or American cheerleader these countries have every right to defend themselves against Jewhad.

Suppose the Chinese strategy was to invade Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and they had already conquered Canada right on our border. Wouldn't we want nuclear weapons if hypothetically we didn't have them?

Posted by: Luther on September 21, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Seriously, Kevin: Read the last few posts at Arms Control Wonk, especially the survey of the articles that began this propaganda barrage. Follow the link to the Foreign Policy blog with Joe Cirincione's debunking, and Glenn Kessler's weak response to it.

Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright have been part of hyping bogus threats from Iran and Syria for the better part of this year. Kessler and the editors should be, in a just world, completely disgraced by their willingness to keep pushing (and front-paging) the 'nuclear' b.s. as part of the story of the IDF raid.

As for Wright, not one of her stories on the Iranian-Americans imprisoned by the Iranian govt (three recently freed) has so much as mentioned the five Iranians kidnaped in Irbil by the U.S. and held ever since in a complete news blackout.

Posted by: Nell on September 21, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Given the high levels of tension between Israel and Syria, Israel would not have launched this attack and risked an all-out war unless it was convinced it was nuclear-related target.

North Korea's strange, immediate condemnation of the attack (it normally doesn't commment on these types of developments) as well as the silence of most Arab countries provides further evidence that the target was nuclear-related. So does the fact that Syria has not ushered any reporters to the target.

Posted by: Mark on September 21, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Probably pure bullshit or al Jazeera would have been all over it, as would have the Guardian, the South Asian Times, China Daily, etc. etc. So even if it was initially "politely" ignored in the U.S., the story would have made the rounds.

Posted by: JeffII on September 21, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

The London Times had this story 5 days ago . . . Posted by: ex-liberal

The newspaper is called The Times, not the London Times.

Moron.

Posted by: JeffII on September 21, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on September 21, 2007 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK
The Israelis don't put their pilots at risk for nothing.

Duh, but that adds nothing to the discussion. No one is arguing that Israel did this for no reason.

What is being discussed is which of many possible reasons is most plausible given what little is known.


Posted by: cmdicely on September 21, 2007 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Why would Syria go to North Korea whose nuclear test is not completely successful, when there is A.Q. Khan in nearby Pakistan?
The US was urging Israel to attack Syria as part of their last Lebanon invasion. Perhaps the Israeli ADF was engaging in a dry run ascertain if they could slip through to attack Iran when the Syrians fired on them?

The Israelis don't put their pilots at risk for nothing. theAmericanist at 8:07 AM

Those military heroes in the ADF usually drop cluster bombs on Lebanonese civilian areas.

Posted by: Mike on September 21, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever happened exactly, there was an Israeli or US screw-up involved.

Posted by: Swan on September 21, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Wonder if it had anything to do with the WMDs that were supposed to have been taken to Syria by Saddam after we started the attack on him?

Posted by: TruthPolitik on September 21, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

The whole thing is still murky, since everyone seems to agree that it doesn't really make sense, but it's now pretty hard to ignore.

Perfect! Must invade again based on tenuous, murky confusing, illogical data...

it's now officially a story to follow.

Mission Accomplished!

Posted by: ckelly on September 21, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I heard Syria was trying to acquire yellowcake from Niger and North Korea was helping them get it.

Posted by: yep on September 21, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

mhr, I'll see your * and raise you...**

Posted by: ckelly on September 21, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

jerry: the report says the pilots flying cover weren't briefed - all they had to do was escort the attack planes. presumably, the attacking pilots were briefed and rehearsed exhaustively.

dc: it's still an act of war. on the other hand, israel and syria have been at war for decades...

assorted conspiracy theorists: yes, this could all be a calculated disinformation campaign, either aimed at providing a convenient cover story for the israelis, or at justifying some desired course of action. but there are a number of things that militate against that conclusion. for one, the syrian silence has been conspicuous and puzzling. when israel shells lebanon, reporters are rushed to the scene to document the destructive acts of the zionist entity. nationalist groups sieze upon the aggression to whip the populace into a frenzy of support. the assad regime is sufficiently shaky that it could almost have been counted upon to view an israeli attack as a godsend - in fact, it had been drumming up tension along the border this year to quiet domestic unrest. so why isn't syria saying more? conducting tours of the site? offering widows and orphans to the cameras? it all points to the conclusion that whatever the israelis hit, the syrians are embarassed it was there, and humiliated it was destroyed. that doesn't mean it was nuclear, but it's intriguing.

there's also the fact that this story has slowly percolated through the media. the early reports were attacked. intelligence reporters, chastened by the saga of judy miller, have been cautious about embracing the rumors, and careful to give print space to alternative theories and skeptics. but the stories keep coming. kessler has written elsewhere that he's taken this to numerous insiders, including those ordinarily skeptical of war with syria or iran, and that no one has waved him off the story. that's troubling. with every passing day, you have to think that the bar gets raised on the evidence that's required to get these stories into print, precisely because people like kevin are questioning them.

at the end of the day, the reason i tend to think there's something to these reports is a little perverse - they're too improbable not to contain at least a grain of truth. if israel wanted cover for an airstrike, it could easily have claimed that it was hitting a facility arming missiles with chemical warheads (jane's defense weekly ran a story on an explosion at such a syrian facility earlier this week) or even that the facility was nuclear - but why on earth would they drag north korea into the picture? it's so improbable, so counterintuitive, so likely to raise the hackles and suspicions of people who follow the issue, that i just can't believe it would have been put around as a cover story.

Posted by: FlyOnTheWall on September 21, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

THE SYRIA-NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR CONNECTION

Is this anything like the...

Iraq-AlQaeda "connection"
or
the Iraq-9/11 "connection"
or
the Iraq-WMD "connection"
or...

Posted by: ckelly on September 21, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

YOU MUST MUST MUST DUMP THAT INCREDIBLY ANNOYING "HOT SEARCH" BANNER AD AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE!!!! Thank you.

Posted by: davdi on September 21, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder if it had anything to do with the WMDs that were supposed to have been taken to Syria by Saddam after we started the attack on him?

Given that Syria's large chemical arsenal is about as much an accepted fact as Israel's nuclear arsenal (and widely seen as existing as a pretty much open secret largely as a deterrent to the latter), its unlikely that any notional "WMD" that Saddam might have had would have changed anything between Israel and Syria even if Syria had acquired them with the fall of Saddam's regime.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 21, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Re buck above: maybe it was really about chemical weapons instead?

Posted by: Neil B. on September 21, 2007 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

buck:

there's another wya to interpret the sourcing of these claims. it's possible that the only people stupid and indescrete enough to talk explicitly about what happened are those - Bolton and Bibi being prime examples - who would like to use what took place in order to advance the cause of further conflict. Shimon Peres, for example, has resolutely refused to comment, beyond saying that he hopes with the incident in the past peace talks can now move forward. that suggests (a) that even those who support engagement and peace settlements within israel are supportive of this strike and (b) that it, in some way, resolved an outstanding situation that might have been a bar to peace.

as for the israeli media, you've got to understand the ways in which israeli censorship laws function. if an israeli paper quotes an israeli official on a story that it's been barred from publishing, it's in trouble. but if an *american* official says something to an american paper, and the israeli paper reprints it, that's fine.

so the sourcing is consistent with either theory: it could be calculated disinformation, or it could by the cynical exploitation of an actual event by those who seek to use it for their own purposes.

Posted by: FlyOnTheWall on September 21, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever happened exactly, there was an Israeli or US screw-up involved.

If what was planned to happen happened, then our hawksih press would have trumpeted the results and releaseable details pretty clearly and earlier than they have. That we've only gotten a late, quiet message, and meant-to-confuse mixed messages following, means that there was a mess-up, and responsible perties had trouble figuring out what to say about it to the public. What should they say they meant to do so they don't look bad? If they something too implausible, say if what they hit was something that was not a really good idea for them to hit at all, the the Syrians will scoff and very easily explain to the press how the explanation is flimsy, and maybe they'll offer their own explanation of what was meant to be hit, and maybe that explanation will be true, or maybe it won't and it wil be intended to make Washington/Israel look worse than in reality. So the responsible parties have to come up with a story that is not just what they'd like people to think, but is also doable, and that may not be easy and may not be something they planned. Hence the delay.

Posted by: Swan on September 21, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Given that Syria's large chemical arsenal is about as much an accepted fact as Israel's nuclear arsenal (and widely seen as existing as a pretty much open secret largely as a deterrent to the latter), its unlikely that any notional "WMD" that Saddam might have had would have changed anything between Israel and Syria even if Syria had acquired them with the fall of Saddam's regime."

Depends on who has the wmd. If the Syrian government wasn't in control of them. Then could Israel have been doing the Syrian government a favor? I haven't heard Syria complaining yet.

And of course Lee Harvey Oswald didn't assassinate Kennedy.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on September 21, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK
I haven't heard Syria complaining yet.

I can't help it you haven't been paying any attention; the whole reason the affair came to light was Syria complaining about it publicly, including to the UN, on the day of the attack.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 21, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Syria complained about an overflight. Then it complained about 'dropped munitions.' It's complained about the violation of its sovereignty. Only after a few of the reports broke did anyone in a position of authority complain about something as opaque as an attack.

But it has yet to explain what was done. There's been no: "We condemn Israel for bombing a military base," or "We blame the zionists for attacking an innocent research facility" or "The Jewish aggressors blasted an empty field." Nothing. Nada.

Why not, cmdicely?

Posted by: anon on September 21, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK
Why not, cmdicely?

There are a near-infinite array of possible reasons, starting with "the Syrian government doesn't want to provide bomb damage assessment for the Israelis", to "the Syrian government had a huge communication snafu internally and now doesn't want to reveal how bad it was", to "the Israelis attacked something Syria doesn't want to reveal they had", to "the Israelis attacked something not controlled by the Syrian government", ...

If you have a point with your question, I'm failing to see it.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 21, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

There are a near-infinite array of possible reasons, starting with "the Syrian government doesn't want to provide bomb damage assessment for the Israelis", to "the Syrian government had a huge communication snafu internally and now doesn't want to reveal how bad it was", to "the Israelis attacked something Syria doesn't want to reveal they had", to "the Israelis attacked something not controlled by the Syrian government", ... Posted by: cmdicely

Or that nothing happened at all?

Posted by: JeffII on September 21, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

"And the neocons at the NYT and WashPost reliably pass it along.


Oh yeah the NYT is just SO neocon.
"

Have you ever fscking read the NYTimes? It's basically the paper of Israel in the US. To the extent that the neo-cons' secondary project (after funelling all the wealth in the US into hands of ten people) is the expansion of greater Israel, yes, the NYT is a neo-con paper.

Cue the complaints about anti-semitic remarks and hate speech...

Posted by: Maynard Handley on September 21, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

truthpolitik: Wonder if it had anything to do with the WMDs that were supposed to have been taken to Syria by Saddam after we started the attack on him?


so its your claim that the bush admin. while attempting to prevent terrorists from getting saddam's wmds...

allowed saddam to distribute them?

heckofajob

again

Posted by: mr. irony on September 21, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

YOU MUST MUST MUST DUMP THAT INCREDIBLY ANNOYING "HOT SEARCH" BANNER AD AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE!!!!

Amen. It's truly vicious.

Posted by: Swift Loris on September 21, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

but why on earth would they drag north korea into the picture?

Because Cheney wants to scuttle US talks with NKor, and this incident providing the perfect opportunity, he funneled the disinfo through his buds Bolten and Bibi?

Posted by: Disputo on September 21, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a link to the route the bombers purportedly took,
http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-1284716,00.html?f=rss
They spent an awful long time over Turkey. Anyone got a suggestion as to why they were allowed into Turkish airspace that long? Is this normal?

Here is a link to the known Iranian nuclear sites,
http://ccablog.blogspot.com/2006/02/nuclear-map-of-iran.html

Might the Israelies actually have been on their way to northern Iran and the mission got scuttled by the Turkish giving the Syrians a heads up?? (And the rhetoric about North Korea is just a bright shiney object?)

Posted by: sailmaker on September 21, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

This act by Isreal supports the inclination I had that Saddam Hussein didn't have an active WMD program. Once again, Isreal is proactive in addressing lethal threats to its existence, and the fact that they didn't take similar action against Saddam in 2001-2002 suggested to me that Hussein was no threat to us (USA) or the region (specifically Isreal). Proof that once again, not everyone thought Iraq had WMD...and proof that Iran isn't there, yet.

Posted by: fcadmus on September 21, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

"so its your claim that the bush admin. while attempting to prevent terrorists from getting saddam's wmds...

allowed saddam to distribute them?"

I claim nothing. Just ask could it be.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on September 21, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Rather than equipment or material for a nuclear program, might the shipment have included systems for more advanced ballistic missiles than Syria currently has in possession or access to? They might not need ballistic missiles with longer ranges in order to attack Israel, but they might desire larger missiles capable of delivering larger doses of whatever WMD they do possess? Further, a larger ballistic missile capable of following the most obvious flight path might be able to avoid whatever ABM systems the Israelis have installed. We know the North Koreans have developed larger ballistic missile systems, even if they haven't been able to successfully test ICBM class weapons. Such weapons and their production systems might prove attractive to the Syrians under current circumstances.

Posted by: PrahaPartizan on September 21, 2007 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK


me: "so its your claim that the bush admin. while attempting to prevent terrorists from getting saddam's wmds...allowed saddam to distribute them?"


truthpolitik: I claim nothing. Just ask could it be.


that's some high ground you have staked out..

...either gwb lied about saddam having wmd's...

or....

gwb let wmd's get away to syria?

heckofajob...

Posted by: mr. irony on September 22, 2007 at 6:33 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody "LET" terrorists get WMDs. How ever it's possible that we failed to prevent them from being taken to Syria. One of the big problems that our military had was not being able to attack from Turkey in the north.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on September 22, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK


truth: it's possible that we failed..

either that...or they lied...

heckofajob

"Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament." - GWB 3/6/03

got that....mission.....very clear...why?

"We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." - Cheney 3/16/03 on Meet the Press

ooooo.....

"We never had enough troops on the ground." - Paul Bremer - Wash. Post 10/5/04

gotta have priorities....

Posted by: mr. irony on September 22, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Is Kevin Drum really stupid enough to fall for this bullshit from the Washington Post again?

Fucking moron. Only a fucking moron would listen to the Washington Post's ghost stories about middle eastern nukes at this point.

Posted by: Soullite on September 22, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who even suggests that there is any truth this to nonsense needs to slapped in the kisser with a dead fish!
Enough already!!

My sides hurt from laughing after I read this.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1189411460535&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Posted by: Cee on September 22, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Not related to nukes at all, at least according to those who spend a lot of time looking at the DPRK:

http://www.nkzone.org/nkzone/entry/2007/09/20/much_ado_about.php

Posted by: NK Watcher on September 24, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

One of the main absurdities of the Nordhaus and Shellenberger article is that somehow it is now the job of people promoting enery sustainability to "bring all of humankind out of poverty."

First, I don't see our current approach to energy or economics as caring one whit about this issue.

Second, no current or future system will be able to accomplish this because the resources involved outside of energy will be too vast. A our existing population, most of the world is condemned to poverty period. I think one of the problems with the "business as usual" approach is that in the near future many of the rest of us may be destined for poverty as well as the curent systems break down.

Posted by: Lincoln Bormann on September 24, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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