What Did Syria Have Going On?


On October 13, New York Times correspondents David Sanger and Mark Mazzetti co-authored one of the most intriguing whodunit stories in recent memory. Really, it was a whydunit story and focused on the September air attack by Israel of a Syrian military site.
This incident has been shrouded in the thickest of secrecy, and there has been much exploitation of the absence of information about the incident by various parties — most visibly by John Bolton. Bolton was among the first to publicly assert that the North Koreans were proliferating nuclear weapons related materials and technology to Syria and that this should raise concerns to levels that should preempt proceeding with the Six Party negotiations and a deal with North Korea.
Sanger and Mazzetti reported:

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.

When it came out, I wrote a short response piece questioning it — and even speculated about whether they may have been getting “Judith Miller’d”.
I really shouldn’t have used such a term as I think Judith Miller was often eager to run with material from the administration that she had not thoroughly checked out. I actually know that this is not true in the case of Sanger and Mazzetti who have been receiving materials from the administration but who also are working a huge machinery of other sources. I have learned this from sources other than these two reporters and know that they are leading in the reporting.

Neither has zapped me for the reference to Miller for which I’m grateful — but I do withdraw it in any case as that is not what I really meant. They are not just sponging in administration intel. That I know — but I and others have thus far been unable to get senior intel and military officials to lead us the direction that Mazzetti and Sanger have gone. It’s very frustrating.
Here’s what I know. Immediately after the Israel raid, a close friend of mine communicated with senior staff in Israel’s Ministry of Defense. The only word that came out of his mouth was “unconventional.” He would not say anything else.
John Bolton and others opposing the Six Party Talks may also have been speaking to similar sources and speculated that this could be nuclear arms related proliferation from North Korea. During the same week, I met with and had lunch with former Korean President Kim Dae Jung — who despite his “sunshine policy” stance towards the North Koreans is not naive — who said that he had been told by Korean intelligence and the incumbent Korean foreign minister that North Korea was not proliferating nuclear materials but probably was proliferating missile related technology.
Then, a journalist friend of mine — not at the New York Times — confided to me that they were being pressed by the White House and by fellow travelers of the Cheney gang to pump up the Syria nuclear story. This is one of several people who actually used the term “being Judith Miller’d” to me to describe how they felt in their interactions with the administration. Even the way they were using it, it still doesn’t describe properly the kind of interaction going on.
Jane’s Defense apparently had a leak that the Syrians were experimenting with chemical warheads for the scud missiles — and that these warheads had airburst capacity. Some folks I spoke to in the Pentagon — who were not in the deep core of knowledge — but close enough that they helped indicate the right and wrong direction of inquiry led me to believe that the Syrians had worked with North Koreans to assemble some kind of new machine tooling operation that would transform the thousands upon thousands of rockets that Syria was producing to aim at Israel — and also to supply Hezbollah with — into more sophisticated “air burst” warhead compatible scuds.
Then someone I can’t mention but very close to the action on the Arab side of the equation essentially confirmed the story above.
I just failed — as have others — to get the nuclear reactor bit of the story that Mazzetti and David Sanger were able to get. But there should be other pieces to the story now I’d think.
What does the early stages of nuclear reactor development look like? I thought — perhaps incorrectly — that new reactors involved digging a major hole in the ground and filling it with massive amounts of concrete. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. Also, Center for American Progress nuclear prolifertion expert Joe Cirincione has posed the question of where the fuel for the facility would come from?
So, there are lots of questions out there yet. And I guess, I’m still scratching my head about the Syria nuclear reactor story because I can’t make it add up yet. I certainly can’t match the sourcing that Sanger and Mazzetti have been able to do.
But on a more theoretical level, I guess one question I have is why would Syria even start down that path given all that Iran is now going through. Missile enhancements seems understandable — but this nuke path, if correct, doesn’t make strategic sense.

— Steve Clemons


16 comments on “What Did Syria Have Going On?

  1. arthurdecco says:

    Thank you, Kathleen.


  2. Sandy says:

    Oh, you’re most welcome, Kathleen. This last one’s interesting, too, I thought. Dangerous business these jokers engage in! World-wide ramifications/consequences….but who’s doing anything about it? sigh


  3. Sandy says:

    October 22, 2007 Issue
    Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative
    Phantoms Over Syria
    Eveything Israel wants you to know about its secret airstrike
    by Philip Giraldi
    On Sept. 6, Israeli F-15s and F-16s attacked a site near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria, though the strike wasn’t confirmed for nearly two weeks. The Washington Post reported on Sept. 13 that according to a former Israeli official, “it was an attack against a facility capable of making unconventional weapons.” Two days later, Syria had an accomplice: “Israel had recently provided the United States with evidence—known by the code name ‘Orchard,’” the Post reported, “that North Korea has been cooperating with Syria on a nuclear facility….” (excerpt)


  4. Kathleen says:

    Jon… prima facie ludicrous… love it… hope you don’t mind if I borrow that phrase.
    Carroll. good point… why indeed keep proof secret? Perhaps this mole is Curveball’s brother, Foulball? Let them eat yellowcake!
    Sandy… thanks again for the dynOmite article.
    arthurdecco… something from Praeger Press…
    Author to speak at Barnes & Noble,
    1076 Post Road East, Westport, Ct. 06880
    Thursday, November 1, at 7PM
    In his book, recently published by Praeger Security International, Dr. Gerteiny discusses the various expressions of political violence, and examines state and anti-state forms of terrorism. He carefully distinguishes between terrorism carried out in pursuit of Palestinian national liberation and the theologically driven jihadism that feeds on it. He considers anti-Western Islamism as being reactive to a U.S. Middle East policy inordinately influenced by the Zionist lobby, particularly its equanimity toward Israel’s unchecked expansionism at the expense of Palestine, and its suffocating grip over its population. He reflects on Muslim and Islamist world views and assesses the U.S. reaction to terrorism after 9/11, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This, and the ill-conceived strategy in the Gulf region, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the lack of communications with Syria and Iran, he argues, are perceived by most Muslims as harbingers of an ongoing new “crusade.”
    A former Consultant to the State Department, and the Peace Corps, Professor Gerteiny served as a member of the National Fulbright Screening Committee on the Mid-East and North Africa, was a media commentator on Africa and the Mid-East, and taught and lectured at many US and foreign institutions. He is the recipient of many honors and grants, including a Senior Research Fulbright Fellowship to study the determinants of Egyptian, Tunisian and Moroccan foreign policy. Beside his latest book on terrorism, Dr. Gerteiny pioneered research on the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, publishing books and contributing articles in professional journals, and in Britannica, Americana, and other encyclopedias.
    A 25 minute presentation will be followed by Q. & A., and a book signing.
    For further information call 203-579-1947.


  5. arthurdecco says:

    Posted by Carroll at October 24, 2007 01:03 AM
    Ditto, Carroll. You convinced me. Interesting exchange of ideas too, from all those posting.
    Thank you Mr. Clemons, for providing the ammo – even if it was blanks.


  6. Charles says:

    That’s not a nuclear industry, Jon. It’s a research reactor. They don’t have uranium ore, refining capacity, or skilled technicians and scientists.
    There’s now photos out there showing a building that could house a reactor…or almost anything else.


  7. jon says:

    Oops, herewith the link:
    And I will correct myself: Apparently Syria does have a nuclear industry and it has previously made attempts to acquire additional nuclear technology and resources, some of which has been rebuffed by the IAEA.
    That said, it appears that the potential for Syria to have a nuclear program, much less a weapon, that should be of any concern to the Israelis is negligible.
    Perhaps the Israeli’s intelligence is not up to snuff on this matter or they were misled. As an over-reaction it is not as large a blunder as their bombardment and invasion of Lebanon last year, but it certainly calls into further question their motives, and the judgement and proportionality of their military responses in other circumstances.


  8. jon says:

    Here’s a link to Global Security’s background on Syrian nuclear efforts.
    If, as a quote towards the bottom of that piece state – that the Syrian facility attacked was ‘a uranium enrichment pilot plant’, then I would like to respectfully call bullshit on this. This is now Iran writ very small. And Iran is a reprise of the lead in to Iraq.
    Perhaps there is real intelligence on this somewhere. But from what is out there, it doesn’t add up at all.


  9. Charles says:

    Steve, there are many specific points on which this story is probably bulls–t. John Pike of Global Security has raised many of them. A blogger by the name of Spook in the Machine has raised others. I have raised others, including:
    1. The report of two different sites for the facility and the absence of any bomb damage at the site presumably suggested by Sanger and Manzetti.
    2. The failure of media to publish satellite photos showing damage.
    3. The fact that nuclear reactors would be easily visible from space (cf. Yongbyon precedent) vs. the reported fact that US intelligence missed the construction.
    4. The lack of in-country ore for a reactor.
    Sanger and Manzetti also made a major technical error regarding the reactor mediation. The list goes on and on.
    Without seeing the evidence, one can’t completely write off the story. The failure of the Administration to provide evidence suggests that they fear that would happen if they did. But the media also has very definite means to answer many of the questions, and they haven’t.
    I’d stick with the Judy Miller phrase, even if you can’t for reasons of being politic.


  10. erichwwk says:

    What the Israeli strike on Syria tells me is how much the political process relies on words and the perception one is able to create, and how little on observable, verifiable, physical evidence. One indeed chooses in which of two parallel universes to live.


  11. jon says:

    Interesting points being raised here. Too bad they aren’t receiving wider discussion and consideration. Just a few things to add:
    In all of the concern about putative Iranian and now Syrian nuclear weapons programs, why is there no discussion of Israel’s confirmed nuclear weapons capability. Why no discussion of previous initiatives to declare the Middle East a nuclear free zone?
    Imagine the response if the Saudis took it upon themselves to bomb the Dimona complex because they feared speculative Israeli plans to destabilize their country?
    It seems prima facie ludicrous that Syria would have a nuclear industry of any sort, much less the ability to pursue and nuclear weapons program. Do they even have the budget available to buy any of the toys that might be on offer from DPRK, Pakistan, or perhaps Iran? A nuclear weapons program is extensive, complicated, expensive, and requires a great number of highly skilled technicians and scientific specialties. Does Syria actually have any of this? Can they reasonably be expected to be able to acquire it it in the near future?
    After witnessing at close hand the effects of the assertion of WMD capability in Iraq, Syria would be quite insane to be pursuing nuclear weapons or the chemical weapons that Steve alludes to.
    The story that Syria had purchased additional missiles – perhaps upgraded SCUDs (?) – from DPRK seems to make far more sense. The Koreans need the foreign exchange. Syria certainly has a demonstrated need for security, particularly in the aftermath of Israel’s unprovoked bombing.
    Does anyone have the general coordinates for the bombing site? A quick look at Google earth might answer a lot of questions and help focus the inquiry.
    The Cook article’s parenthetical query seems to miss the point. It has been asserted that the bombing run was partially designed to defeat Syrian electronic air defenses, and that those defenses are closely modeled on Iranian systems. Thus the attack was less about clearing a path through Syrian territory, as it was to send a message to the Iranians that their air defenses would be inadequate to deter a limited sortie, much less a widespread bombing campaign. Implicit is the understanding that US electronic warfare capabilities are equal or superior to the Israeli’s.
    What is clear at this point is that we have not begun to hear the full story about this event.


  12. Sandy says:

    September 27, 2007
    By Jonathan Cook
    Israel’s air strike on northern Syria earlier this month should be understood in the context of events unfolding since its assault last summer on neighboring Lebanon.
    From the leaks so far, it seems that more than half a dozen Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace to drop munitions on a site close to the border with Turkey. We also know from the US media that the raid occurred in close coordination with the White House. But what was the purpose and significance of the attack?
    It is worth recalling that, in the wake of Israel’s month-long war against Lebanon a year ago, a prominent American neoconservative, Meyrav Wurmser, wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney’s recently departed Middle East adviser, explained that the war had dragged on because the White House delayed in imposing a ceasefire. The neocons, she said, wanted to give Israel the time and space to expand the attack to Damascus.
    The reasoning was simple: before an attack on Iran could be countenanced, Hizbullah in Lebanon had to be destroyed and Syria at the very least cowed. The plan was to isolate Tehran on these two other hostile fronts before going in for the kill.
    But faced with constant rocket fire from Hizbullah last summer, Israel’s public and military nerves frayed at the first hurdle. Instead Israel and the US were forced to settle for a Security Council resolution rather than a decisive military victory.
    The immediate fallout of the failed attack was an apparent waning of neocon influence. The group’s program of “creative destruction” in the Middle East — the encouragement of regional civil war and the partition of large states that threaten Israel — was at risk of being shunted aside.
    Instead the “pragmatists” in the Bush Administration, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, demanded a change of tack. The standoff reached a head in late 2006 when oilman James Baker and his Iraq Study Group began lobbying for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq — presumably only after a dictator, this one more reliable, had again been installed in Baghdad. It looked as if the neocons’ day in the sun had finally passed.
    Israel’s leadership understood the gravity of the moment. In January 2007 the Herzliya conference, an annual festival of strategy-making, invited no less than 40 Washington opinion-formers to join the usual throng of Israeli politicians, generals, journalists and academics. For a week the Israeli and American delegates spoke as one: Iran and its presumed proxy, Hizbullah, were bent on the genocidal destruction of Israel. Tehran’s development of a nuclear program — whether for civilian use, as Iran argues, or for military use, as the US and Israel claim — had to be stopped at all costs.
    While the White House turned uncharacteristically quiet all spring and summer about what it planned to do next, rumors that Israel was pondering a go-it-alone strike against Iran grew noisier by the day. Ex-Mossad officers warned of an inevitable third world war, Israeli military intelligence advised that Iran was only months away from the point of no return on developing a nuclear warhead, prominent leaks in sympathetic media revealed bombing runs to Gibraltar, and Israel started upping the pressure on several tens of thousands of Jews in Tehran to flee their homes and come to Israel.
    While Western analysts opined that an attack on Iran was growing unlikely, Israel’s neighbors watched nervously through the first half of the year as the vague impression of a regional war came ever more sharply into focus. In particular Syria, after witnessing the whirlwind of savagery unleashed against Lebanon last summer, feared it was next in line in the US-Israeli campaign to break Tehran’s network of regional alliances. It deduced, probably correctly, that neither the US nor Israel would dare attack Iran without first clobbering Hizbullah and Damascus.
    For some time Syria had been left in no doubt of the mood in Washington. It failed to end its pariah status in the post-9/11 period, despite helping the CIA with intelligence on al-Qaeda and secretly trying to make peace with Israel over the running sore of the occupied Golan Heights. It was rebuffed at every turn.
    So as the clouds of war grew darker in the spring, Syria responded as might be expected. It went to the arms market in Moscow and bought up the displays of anti-aircraft missiles as well as anti-tank weapons of the kind Hizbullah demonstrated last summer were so effective at repelling Israel’s planned ground invasion of south Lebanon.
    As the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld reluctantly conceded earlier this year, US policy was forcing Damascus to remain within Iran’s uncomfortable embrace: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finds himself more dependent on his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than perhaps he would like.”
    Israel, never missing an opportunity to wilfully misrepresent the behavior of an enemy, called the Syrian military build-up proof of Damascus’ appetite for war. Apparently fearful that Syria might initiate a war by mistaking the signals from Israel as evidence of aggressive intentions, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, urged Syria to avoid a “miscalculation”. The Israeli public spent the summer braced for a far more dangerous repeat of last summer’s war along the northern border.
    It was at this point — with tensions simmeringly hot — that Israel launched its strike, sending several fighter planes into Syria on a lightning mission to hit a site near Dayr a-Zawr. As Syria itself broke the news of the attack, Israeli generals were shown on TV toasting in the Jewish new year but refusing to comment.
    Details have remained thin on the ground ever since: Israel imposed a news blackout that has been strictly enforced by the country’s military censor. Instead it has been left to the Western media to speculate on what occurred.
    One point that none of the pundits and analysts have noted was that, in attacking Syria, Israel committed a blatant act of aggression against its northern neighbor of the kind denounced as the “supreme international crime” by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.
    Also, no one pointed out the obvious double standard applied to Israel’s attack on Syria compared to the far less significant violation of Israeli sovereignty by Hizbullah a year earlier, when the Shia militia captured two Israel soldiers at a border post and killed three more. Hizbullah’s act was widely accepted as justification for the bombardment and destruction of much of Lebanon, even if a few sensitive souls agonized over whether Israel’s response was “disproportionate”. Would these commentators now approve of similar retaliation by Syria?
    The question was doubtless considered unimportant because it was clear from Western coverage that no one — including the Israeli leadership — believed Syria was in a position to respond militarily to Israel’s attack. Olmert’s fear of a Syrian “miscalculation” evaporated the moment Israel did the maths for Damascus.
    So what did Israel hope to achieve with its aerial strike?
    The stories emerging from the less gagged American media suggest two scenarios. The first is that Israel targeted Iranian supplies passing through Syria on their way to Hizbullah; the second that Israel struck at a fledgling Syrian nuclear plant where materials from North Korea were being offloaded, possibly as part of a joint nuclear effort by Damascus and Tehran.
    (Speculation that Israel was testing Syria’s anti-aircraft defences in preparation for an attack on Iran ignores the fact that the Israeli air force would almost certainly choose a flightpath through friendlier Jordanian airspace.)
    How credible are these two scenarios?
    The nuclear claims against Damascus were discounted so quickly by experts of the region that Washington was soon downgrading the accusation to claims that Syria was only hiding the material on North Korea’s behalf. But why would Syria, already hounded by Israel and the US, provide such a readymade pretext for still harsher treatment? Why, equally, would North Korea undermine its hard-won disarmament deal with the US? And why, if Syria were covertly engaging in nuclear mischief, did it alert the world to the fact by revealing the Israeli air strike?
    The other justification for the attack was at least based in a more credible reality: Damascus, Hizbullah and Iran undoubtedly do share some military resources. But their alliance should be seen as the kind of defensive pact needed by vulnerable actors in a Sunni-dominated region where the US wants unlimited control of Gulf oil and supports only those repressive regimes that cooperate on its terms. All three are keenly aware that it is Israel’s job to threaten and punish any regimes that fail to toe the line.
    Contrary to the impression being created in the West, genocidal hatred of Israel and Jews, however often Ahmadinejad’s speeches are mistranslated, is not the engine of these countries’ alliance.
    Nonetheless, the political significance of the justifications for the Israeli air strike is that both neatly tie together various strands of an argument needed by the neocons and Israel in making their case for an attack on Iran before Bush leaves office in early 2009. Each scenario suggests a Shia “axis of evil”, coordinated by Iran, that is actively plotting Israel’s destruction. And each story offers the pretext for an attack on Syria as a prelude to a pre-emptive strike against Tehran — launched either by Washington or Tel Aviv — to save Israel.
    That these stories appear to have been planted in the American media by neocon fanatics like John Bolton is warning enough — as is the admission that the only evidence for Syrian malfeasance is Israeli “intelligence”, the basis of which cannot be questioned as Israel is not officially admitting the attack.
    It should hardly need pointing out that we are again in a hall of mirrors, as we were during the period leading up to America’s invasion of Iraq and have been during its subsequent occupation.
    Bush’s “war on terror” was originally justified with the convenient and manufactured links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, as well as, of course, those WMDs that, it later turned out, had been destroyed years earlier. But ever since Tehran has invariably been the ultimate target of these improbable confections.
    There were the forged documents proving both that Iraq had imported enriched uranium from Niger to manufacture nuclear warheads and that it was sharing its nuclear know-how with Iran. And as Iraq fell apart, neocon operatives like Michael Ledeen lost no time in spreading rumors that the missing nuclear arsenal could still be accounted for: Iranian agents had simply smuggled it out of Iraq during the chaos of the US invasion.
    Since then our media have proved that they have no less of an appetite for such preposterous tales. If Iran’s involvement in stirring up its fellow Shia in Iraq against the US occupation is at least possible, the same cannot be said of the regular White House claims that Tehran is behind the Sunni-led insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few months ago the news media served up “revelations” that Iran was secretly conspiring with al-Qaeda and Iraq’s Sunni militias to oust the US occupiers.
    So what purpose does the constant innuendo against Tehran serve?
    The latest accusations should be seen as an example of Israel and the neocons “creating their own reality”, as one Bush adviser famously observed of the neocon philosophy of power. The more that Hizbullah, Syria and Iran are menaced by Israel, the more they are forced to huddle together and behave in ways to protect themselves — such as arming — that can be portrayed as a “genocidal” threat to Israel and world order.
    Van Creveld once observed that Tehran would be “crazy” not to develop nuclear weapons given the clear trajectory of Israeli and US machinations to overthrow the regime. So equally Syria cannot afford to jettison its alliance with Iran or its involvement with Hizbullah. In the current reality, these connections are the only power it has to deter an attack or force the US and Israel to negotiate.
    But they are also the evidence needed by Israel and the neocons to convict Syria and Iran in the court of Washington opinion. The attack on Syria is part of a clever hustle, one designed to vanquish or bypass the doubters in the Bush Administration, both by proving Syria’s culpability and by provoking it to respond.
    Condoleezza Rice, it emerged at the weekend, wants to invite Syria to attend the regional peace conference that has been called by President Bush for November. There can be no doubt that such an act of détente is deeply opposed by both Israel and the neocons. It reverses their strategy of implicating Damascus in the “Shia arc of extremism” and of paving the way to an attack on the real target: Iran.
    Syria, meanwhile, is fighting back, as it has been for some time, with the only means available: the diplomatic offensive. For two years Bashar al-Assad has been offering a generous peace deal to Israel on the Golan Heights that Tel Aviv has refused to consider. This week, Syria made a further gesture towards peace with an offer on another piece of territory occupied by Israel, the Shebaa Farms. Under the plan, the Farms — which the United Nations now agrees belongs to Lebanon, but which Israel still claims is Syrian and cannot be returned until there is a deal on the Golan Heights — would be transferred to UN custody until the dispute over its sovereignty can be resolved.
    Were either of Damascus’ initiatives to be pursued, the region might be looking forward to a period of relative calm and security. Which is reason enough why Israel and the neocons are so bitterly opposed. Instead they must establish a new reality — one in which the forces of “creative destruction” so beloved of the neocons engulf yet more of the region. For the rest of us, a simpler vocabulary suffices. What is being sold is catastrophe.
    Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is http://www.jkcook.net


  13. Carroll says:

    Let’s consider why this could be the same Israeli and neo bullshit we saw on Iraq.
    Numero uno reason would be the fact that if Isr or the US had actual proof of nuclear facilities THEY WOULDN’T KEEP IT SECRET.
    Paragraph 5: “Secrecy is restricted to just a handful of officials”;
    Showing the “proof” would bolester their case against Syria and the axis of evil.
    Showing the proof would make Cheney’s and the neos and Israel’s cases stronger.
    Showing the proof would give Israel some credibility with our own intelligence agencies.
    Showing the proof would give the US some credibility within the UN.
    They could share THEIR PROOF with the IAEA and the IAEA could confirm to the whole world that IT’S ALL TRUE!
    But they won’t share their proof with the IAEA. The IAEA is having to resort to commerical images to try and judge what the hell is was that Isr struck.
    “UN nuclear agency examines Syria images ”
    By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 19, 3:57 PM ET
    VIENNA, Austria – U.N. experts have begun analyzing satellite imagery of the Syrian site struck last month by Israeli warplanes, looking for any signs it was a secret nuclear facility, diplomats said Friday.
    It was unclear where the material was obtained or what exactly it showed. One of the diplomats, who is linked to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the experts were studying commercial images, contrary to earlier suggestions they came from U.S. intelligence.
    Separately, a senior diplomat familiar with the issue indicated the experts were looking at several possible locations for the Israeli strike. Two other diplomats said initial examination of the material found no evidence the target was a nuclear installation, but emphasized it was too early to draw definitive conclusions.
    All of those who spoke to The Associated Press were briefed on the agency’s receipt of the images but demanded anonymity because their information was confidential.
    The IAEA investigation is significant because it is the first case of an independent and respected organization looking at the evidence and trying to reach a conclusion as to what was hit.
    Since the Sept. 6 bombing, news media have quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying the airstrike hit a nuclear facility linked to North Korea, which is now in the process of dismantling its nuclear weapons program. On Friday, The Washington Post cited American officials as saying the site, in Syria’s eastern desert near the Euphrates River, had characteristics of a small but substantial nuclear reactor similar to North Korea’s facility.
    Officials of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog and the U.S. diplomatic mission to the IAEA had no comment Friday. But IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming indirectly rebuked Washington earlier this week, saying the agency “expects any country having information about nuclear-related activities in another country to provide that information to the IAEA.”
    Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, cautioned that without full U.S. cooperation, the IAEA’s probe might be hampered because commercial satellite imagery “may not be of sufficient quality to figure out difficult questions.”
    Still, he welcomed IAEA involvement as an opportunity for a neutral organization to “provide an assessment and give the international community some guidance about what has or has not happened.”
    Syria denies it has an undeclared nuclear program and North Korea has said it was not involved in any nuclear program in the Mideast nation. Damascus has said the Israelis targeted an empty building, and the agency has said it has no evidence to the contrary.
    The diplomats said Vienna-based Syrian diplomats have met with senior IAEA representatives since the bombing and have provided no substantive information that would indicate their country had nuclear secrets.
    Syria has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and allowed agency experts to inspect its only known nuclear facility — a small, 27-kilowatt reactor, according to diplomats linked to the IAEA.
    This is bullshit reporting. Shame on Steve for promoting this. If he or his reporters want to identify “what other sources” they are getting their information from that collaborates THE PROOF claimed by all their unidentified government and non government ‘experts” then let’s see it.
    Along with a really good reason why Cheney and the neos and Isr would want to keep the proof that could help make all their dreams come true a SECRET.
    And oh yea…yesterday’s story in the Israeli papers is that this info on a Syria nuke facility came from an Israeli “mole” “on the ground” in Syria.
    So chances are there aren’t even any fucking super duper, super SECRET satellite images of the nuke facility to show IAEA or anyone else. If something is nonexistant that’s a pretty good reason for being “closely held” and “restricted to a handful of unnamed officials.
    I think I will wait to see what if anything the “independent” IAEA is able to determine.


  14. JohnH says:

    This certainly reeks of psyops. Mohammed El Baradei has shown some interest, and I hope he visits the site. But even if his investigation debunks the nuclear story, you can bet that Israel and the neocons will continue to beat that dead horse back to life. And their concoction will be eagerly received by the media oligarchs, who love nothing more than reporting on another front in the war on terror.


  15. Carroll says:

    For every reporter reporting that Isr and the US were in agreement that the facility Isr struck was nuclear there have been an equal number of stories by the WP and others that the US did not trust the Isr intelligence and had no evidence from our own intelligence agencies to support the Isr claim and urged Isr to hold off on any action.
    So who is lying and who is telling the truth and for what reasons?
    Isr lies, the US lies, Syria lies, the press lies. Believe nothing these days. Fool us once shame on them, fool us twice shame on us.


  16. bw says:

    Steve, your thinking is clear is day, and I think that you do all of us a service by laying out what you think would be logical or illogical for the Syrians. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t trying to build a reactor or something. But we need measures of strategic common sense, and you help provide that every day, and in particular in this piece today.


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