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September 15, 2007

What Secret Israeli Raid On North Korean Shipment Of Nuclear Materials To Syria?

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

For days now anonymous US officials and officials of other countries have spoken of a mysterious Israeli strike inside Syria - with talk ranging from suggestions it was aimed at a shipment of weapons to Hizbollah from Iran, to suggestions Syria could be building a nuclear facility with North Korean help and the Israelis. The talk of a N. Korean/Syrian nuclear connection has not been without "fuel," with reports of leaked US intelligence citing alleged atomic links between the Stalinist state and Syria still coming out today (the Bush administration apparently prefers to pretend it isn't happening, in order to protect it's useless North Korean nuclear disarmament deal.

However, The Washington Post on Saturday quoted an American Middle East expert as saying that the alleged IAF strike in northern Syria was directly connected to a shipment Syria received from North Korea three days earlier. And now there's reports that the Israelis "blew apart a Syrian nuclear cache":

[...] IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria's formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.

At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.

Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

The Israeli government was not saying. "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 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?

Continue reading: Israelis 'blew apart Syrian nuclear cache' ...

A very interesting take home message from the article is that the Israelis have apparently just proved they could penetrate the Syrian air defense system - which is stronger than the one protecting Iranian nuclear sites.

Posted by Abdul at September 15, 2007 9:38 PM

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