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. â€œThe security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,â€ said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. â€œWe naturally cannot always show the public our cards.â€
The Syrians were also keeping mum. â€œI cannot reveal the details,â€ said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. â€œAll 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 Shiâ€™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 â€œsecret suppliersâ€, and added that there were a â€œnumber of foreign techniciansâ€ in the country.
Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: â€œThere are North Korean people there. Thereâ€™s no question about that.â€ He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistanâ€™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 Â£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 Americaâ€™s â€œred lineâ€ forbidding the proliferation of nuclear materials.
Christopher Hill, the State Department official representing America in the talks, said on Friday he could not confirm â€œintelligence-type thingsâ€, but the reports underscored the need â€œto make sure the North Koreans get out of the nuclear businessâ€.
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 â€œaxis of evilâ€ 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.
DEBKAfileâ€™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 â€œforced to leave by Syrian air defense fire after dropping ammunition over deserted areas without causing casualties.â€ ….
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 â€œabsolute jamming immunityâ€ which the Russian manufactures promised for the improved Pantsyr missiles was immobilized by superior electronic capabilities exercised by the jets before they were â€œforced to leave.â€
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.