Category Archive 'Israeli 9/6 Strike on Syria'

25 Apr 2008

Congress Told Syrian Reactor was “Nearly Complete”

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International Herald Tribune:

The Bush administration released detailed photographic images on Thursday to support its assertion that the building in Syria that Israel destroyed in an airstrike last year was a nuclear reactor constructed with years of help from North Korea.

The administration said it withheld the pictures for seven months out of fear that Syria could retaliate against Israel and start a broader war in the Middle East.

The photographs taken inside the reactor before it was destroyed in an air raid on Sept. 6 clearly show the rods that control the heat in a nuclear reactor, one of many close engineering similarities to a reactor halfway around the world where North Korea produced the fuel for its nuclear arsenal.

While the photographs were not dated, some taken on the ground seemed to go back to before 2002.

But after a full day of briefing members of Congress, two senior intelligence officials acknowledged that the evidence had left them with no more than “low confidence” that Syria was preparing to build a nuclear weapon. They said that there was no sign that Syria had built an operation to convert the spent fuel from the plant into weapons-grade plutonium, but that they had told President George W. Bush last year that they could think of no other explanation for the reactor.

Among the photographs shown to members of Congress and reporters on Thursday was one of the manager of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear plant with the director of Syria’s nuclear agency. A car in the background has Syrian license plates. (see below)

When asked about North Korea’s motivation for the project, one of the senior intelligence officials said simply, “Cash.” He refused to say how much.


Too small image courtesy of Depkafile

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AP:

The Syrian nuclear reactor allegedly built with North Korean design help and destroyed last year by Israeli jets was within weeks or months of being functional, a top U.S. official said Thursday.

The facility was mostly completed but still needed significant testing before it could be declared operational, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

However, no uranium — needed to fuel a reactor — was evident at the site, a remote area of eastern Syria along the Euphrates River.

The Syrian reactor was similar in design to a North Korean reactor at Yongbyon that has in the past produced small amounts of plutonium, U.S. officials said. Plutonium is highly radioactive and can be used to make powerful nuclear weapons or radiological bombs.

Complete story.

28 Oct 2007

Syrian Smoking Gun

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Debkafile says US and Israeli Intelligence have documents with Syrian president Assad’s signature trading wheat for North Korean nuclear technology.

President Bashar Assad was personally involved in Damascus’ nuclear deal with Pyongyang. Documentary proofs of this, obtained from the presidential bureau and signed by Assad in person, are now in the hands of the US and Israeli intelligence services, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report. In one, Assad hands down a specific order in his own handwriting that North Korea not be charged for Syrian goods, including an annual shipment of 100,000 tons of Durham wheat for five years worth a total of $120 million. This is the equivalent of the value of the reactor for producing plutonium up to its most radioactive stage, which North Korea promised Syria.

A high-ranking Western intelligence source speaking to DEBKAfile described the evidence against Assad in US and Israeli hands as solid and much closer to a smoking gun than the West has turned up against Iran’s nuclear program.

Read the whole thing.

20 Oct 2007

International Intrigue in Aftermath of September 6th Bombing

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Debkafile:

Diplomatic sources reported to AP that US intelligence agencies had sent the satellite images to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Its experts have found nothing to substantiate the claim that the site hit was a secret nuclear facility.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that the credibility of the data Israel presented to Washington before the air strike continues to be questioned in some Washington quarters. They contend that, even if the target was a nuclear facility under construction, it would not have posed a threat for years. One purpose of this argument is to belittle Israel’s intelligence findings and detract from questions about how other agencies and the nuclear watchdog missed them. Another is to put the Bush administration on the spot for approving the Israeli air attack in order to deter it from a military strike against Iran.

Friday, Oct. 19, two days after President George W. Bush said an Iranian nuclear bomb could lead to World War III, The Washington Post reported that Syria had begun dismantling the remains of a bombed site near the Euphrates River in an attempt to prevent it coming under international scrutiny. It bears the “signature,” said the paper, “of a small but substantial nuclear reactor, one similar in structure to North Korea’s facilities.”

The WP adds: The bombed facility is different from the one Syria displayed to journalists last week to support its claim that Israel had bombed an empty building.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources have reported from Day One of the bombing that the structure (sic) Israel bombed was located between the Euphrates and Lake Assad and that the Syrians misled correspondents by showing them a site at Deir al-Azur. Our military sources also refuted Damascus’ claim that Israeli bombers had ejected unmarked fuel tanks over Turkey. They were dropped by the Turkish air force, as Syrian president Bashar Assad was informed during his visit to Ankara this week. The genuine Israel fuel tanks with Hebrew markings were shown this week by Al Arabiya TV.

DEBKAfile’s sources: The “no comment” line to which the US and Israel are sticking is having the desired effects, which are:

    1. To keep Syria in the dark about the amount of intelligence garnered by the US and Israel on its nuclear activities.

    2. To entangle the Assad regime in its own untruths, which are spun in an effort to conceal the location that was struck and disguise its true nature. The Syrian version is crumbling piece by piece each time another authentic element is published, at the heavy cost to Assad’s prestige at home and abroad.

17 Oct 2007

Syria Allegedly Confirms, Then Denies, September 6th Target as Nuclear Site

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The Jerusalem Post says that a Syrian UN envoy has spilled the beans about the nature of the target in Israel’s September 6th attack on Syria.

In its first admission by a state official, Syria’s ambassador to the UN confirmed that an air raid carried out by Israeli fighter jets deep in Syrian territory on September 6 was, indeed, an attack on a Syrian nuclear facility, Israel Radio reported Wednesday morning.

The Syrian envoy disclosed the nature of the target during a meeting of a UN committee where Israeli envoys were also present.

A senior source in the Foreign Ministry confirmed that the statement was made in New York by the Syrian official.

Since first announcing on September 6 that an incursion into Syrian airspace by IAF jets took place, Syria has attempted to strike a balance between mustering international condemnation of Israel on the one hand and efforts by Damascus to blur the nature and purpose of the facility attacked on the other hand.

But today Haaretz also reports that Syria denies its official said any such thing.

Syria denied Wednesday its representatives to the United Nations had confirmed that an Israel Air Force strike last month targeted nuclear facility, and added that such facilities do not exist in Syria, state-run news agency said.

The Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, quoting a foreign ministry source, said that Syria had made it clear in the past that there are no such facilities in Syria.

26 Sep 2007

The Mystery of September 6th

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George Friedman, at Stratfor, speculates intelligently on what the September 6th Israeli strike on Syria was all about, and why it is that Israel and the United States have been behaving so mysteriously.

I’ve been waiting with some eagerness to the read the Stratfor subscription service’s take on this one myself.

…by remaining ominously silent, the Israelis and Americans might be trying to shake Iran’s nerve, by demonstrating their intelligence capability, their special operations ability and the reach of their air power. With the Israelis having carried out this attack, this very visible secrecy might be designed to make Iran wonder whether it is next, and from what direction an attack might come.

Normally such international game-playing would not interest us. The propensity of governments to create secrets out of the obvious is one of the more tedious aspects of international relations. But this secret is not obvious, and it is not trivial. Though it is true that something is finally being leaked three weeks after the attack, what is being leaked is neither complete nor reliable. It seems to make sense, but you really have to work hard at it.

At a time when the United States is signaling hostile intentions toward Iran, the events in Syria need to be understood, and the fact that they remain opaque is revealing. The secrecy is designed to make a lot of people nervous. Interestingly, the Israelis threw a change-up pitch the week after the attack, signaling once again that they wanted to open talks with the Syrians — a move the Syrians quickly rebuffed.

When events get so strange that interpretation is a challenge, it usually indicates it was intended that way, that the events are significant and that they could point to further instability. We do not know whether that is true, but Israel and the United States have certainly worked hard to create a riddle wrapped in a mystery.

Earlier postings.

23 Sep 2007

Israeli Commandos Captured Nuclear Material on September 6th

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London Times:

Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.

They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Israeli special forces had been gathering intelligence for several months in Syria, according to Israeli sources. They located the nuclear material at a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in the north.

Evidence that North Korean personnel were at the site is said to have been shared with President George W Bush over the summer. A senior American source said the administration sought proof of nuclear-related activities before giving the attack its blessing.

Diplomats in North Korea and China believe a number of North Koreans were killed in the strike, based on reports reaching Asian governments about conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials.

Follow-up also London Times:

Israeli commandos from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit – almost certainly dressed in Syrian uniforms – made their way stealthily towards a secret military compound near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria. They were looking for proof that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear programme.

Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources. President George W Bush was told during the summer that Israeli intelligence suggested North Korean personnel and nuclear-related material were at the Syrian site.

AFP:

A report says North Korea has trained Syrian missile engineers and the Arab nation has bartered farm products and computers for missiles from the Stalinist state.

The two countries have recently strengthened missile cooperation, with Syrian engineers staying in Pyongyang to acquire technology, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

The barter system began in 1995 due to Syria’s worsening financial woes.

Syria has shipped cotton, food and computers to North Korea in return for buying short-range missiles, the report said.

16 Sep 2007

More on the Israeli Raid on Syria

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The London Times is reporting today that the Israelis “blew apart (a) Syrian nuclear cache.”

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. “The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. “We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”

The Syrians were also keeping mum. “I cannot reveal the details,” said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. “All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.” The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite 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 “secret suppliers”, and added that there were a “number of foreign technicians” in the country.

Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: “There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that.” He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, could be involved.

But why would nuclear material be in Syria? Known to have chemical weapons, was it seeking to bolster its arsenal with something even more deadly?

Alternatively, could it be hiding equipment for North Korea, enabling Kim Jong-il to pretend to be giving up his nuclear programme in exchange for economic aid? Or was the material bound for Iran, as some authorities in America suggest? …

The triangular relationship between North Korea, Syria and Iran continues to perplex intelligence analysts. Syria served as a conduit for the transport to Iran of an estimated £50m of missile components and technology sent by sea from North Korea. The same route may be in use for nuclear equipment.

But North Korea is at a sensitive stage of negotiations to end its nuclear programme in exchange for security guarantees and aid, leading some diplomats to cast doubt on the likelihood that Kim would cross America’s “red line” forbidding the proliferation of nuclear materials.

Christopher Hill, the State Department official representing America in the talks, said on Friday he could not confirm “intelligence-type things”, but the reports underscored the need “to make sure the North Koreans get out of the nuclear business”.

By its actions, Israel showed it is not interested in waiting for diplomacy to work where nuclear weapons are at stake.

As a bonus, the Israelis proved they could penetrate the Syrian air defence system, which is stronger than the one protecting Iranian nuclear sites.

This weekend President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent Ali Akbar Mehrabian, his nephew, to Syria to assess the damage. The new “axis of evil” may have lost one of its spokes.

Debkafile was seen gloating in the direct aftermath of the attack over Israeli Air Force success in overcoming Syria’s shiny new Russian-supplied air defense system.

DEBKAfile’s military experts conclude from the way Damascus described the episode Wednesday, Sept. 6, that the Pantsyr-S1E missiles, purchased from Russia to repel air assailants, failed to down the Israeli jets accused of penetrating northern Syrian airspace from the Mediterranean the night before.

The new Pantsyr missiles therefore leave Syrian and Iranian airspace vulnerable to hostile intrusion.

The Israeli plane or planes were described by a Syrian military spokesman as “forced to leave by Syrian air defense fire after dropping ammunition over deserted areas without causing casualties.” ….

right to respond in an appropriate manner.

Western intelligence circles stress that information on Russian missile consignments to Syria or Iran is vital to any US calculation of whether to attack Iran over its nuclear program. They assume that the “absolute jamming immunity” which the Russian manufactures promised for the improved Pantsyr missiles was immobilized by superior electronic capabilities exercised by the jets before they were “forced to leave.”

Syria took delivery in mid-August of 10 batteries of sophisticated Russian Pantsyr-S1E Air Defense Missile fire control systems with advanced radar, those sources report. They have just been installed in Syria.

Understanding that the Pantsyr-S1E had failed in its mission to bring down trespassing aircraft, Moscow hastened Thursday, Sept 6, to officially deny selling these systems to Syria or Iran and called on Israel to respect international law. This was diplomatic-speak for a warning against attacking the Russian-made missiles batteries stations where Russian instructors are working alongside Syrian teams.

Earlier posting.

15 Sep 2007

What Was the Target of Israel’s Strike on Syria?

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The Telegraph 9/12:

A US official has confirmed that Israeli warplanes carried out an air strike “deep inside” Syria, escalating tensions between the two countries.

The target of the strike last Thursday (Sept. 6) remained unclear but Israeli media reported that a shipment of Iranian arms crossing Syria for use by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon was attacked.

Syria first reported the incident on the day, saying its air defences had engaged five Israeli planes, but did not say what their target was. Israel remained uncharacteristically silent, pointedly refusing to deny that its warplanes were involved in an operation. The closest it came to acknowledging the affair happened was when it made an undertaking to Turkey to investigate how an Israeli long-range fuel tank was dropped on Turkish territory near the Syrian border.

Another theory gaining ground yesterday was that Israel was deliberately attacking the Russian-made Pantsyr air defence system recently bought by Damascus. The sale includes provision for the Pantsyr system to be shipped on to Iran and it is possible the Israeli attack was co-ordinated with America to probe the effectiveness of the system. It is believed that Iran would use the Pantsyr system to defend its nuclear facilities.

Syria has sought to keep the incident in the public arena, saying yesterday that it had complained formally to the United Nations, accusing Israel of unjustified aggression.

New York Times 9/12:

One Bush administration official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea. The administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria.

“The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left,” the official said. He said it was unclear whether the Israeli strike had produced any evidence that might validate that belief.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a military action by another government.

The link to North Korea seems to have confirmed by this response (Haaretz 9/12).

North Korea lashed out Tuesday at Israel for invading Syrian airspace last Thursday, its official news agency said.

“This is a very dangerous provocation little short of wantonly violating the sovereignty of Syria and seriously harassing the regional peace and security,” a spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea strongly denounces the above-said intrusion and extends full support and solidarity to the Syrian people in their just cause to defend the national security and the regional peace,” he added.

Solomon collects some useful links.

And Spook86 discusses several possibilities, including the rumored nuclear facilities.

Further US confirmation appeared Friday.

AP 9/14:

A senior U.S. nuclear official said Friday that North Koreans were in Syria and that Damascus may have had contacts with “secret suppliers” to obtain nuclear equipment.

Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation policy, did not identify the suppliers, but said North Koreans were in the country and that he could not exclude that the network run by the disgraced Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan may have been involved.

No one is currently mentioning any rumors of Syrian possession of surviving remnants of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program, despite the well-known accounts of truck convoys departing over the Syrian border at the time of the 2003 US invasion.


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