Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Syrian-North Korean bomb. More neocon fantasies? Are facts being fitted for the policy?

There is something very fishy about this NYT story in today's edition about the reasons behind Israel's Sep. 6 incursion into Syria airspace.

The NYT:

"The Sept. 6 attack by Israeli warplanes inside Syria struck what Israeli intelligence believes was a nuclear-related facility that North Korea was helping to equip, according to current and former American and Israeli officials."

["The American and Israeli officials said the Israeli government notified the Bush administration about the planned attack just before the raid. It is not clear whether administration officials expressed support for the action or counseled against it." Ha, what do you think?]

North Korea is helping Syria with a nuclear bomb project? Give me a break. Why would the North Koreans at this late date risk all they've achieved in negotiations with us and the Chinese and South Koreans to start proliferating again? And how would the Syrians get away with inporting nuclear fuel? You just don't set up a nuclear bomb making facility over night. The whole notion is ludicrous.

As the last paragraph in the NYT article states:

"'It would almost defy credibility that the North Koreans would be willing to risk so much to engage in a nuclear weapons-related proliferation,'” said Evans Revere, the president of the Korea Society in New York and a former senior American diplomat in Seoul. "

I agree.

Defense-Update.com has this intreguing tidbit about the North Korean angle, which was intitially floated by Iranian dissident groups outside of Iran:

"An interesting report by the Paris based 'Iran Press Service' revealed a story claiming that the Israeli attack targeted the village of Tal Abyadh, near Deir az Zohr, 160 Kilometers north of Raqqa, but without indicating the nature of this target area. IPS claimed, though, that Israel completely destroyed a long-range missile base and that Israeli leaders suspected Syria and Iran building nuclear arms with the help of North Korea."

Although the writer of that piece seems to think there might be some fire where that smoke is, I don't. What seems more likely is that the Israelis were making a dry run along Syria's northern border to see how far they could get on the way to Iran. The references to Israeli planes having dropped their fuel tanks on Syria - - and Turkish - - soil during the incursions tends to indicate they were either trying to avoid AA from the ground or experimenting with going for a longer range mission.

A Time article by Nicholas Blanford has this quote from Mohammed Raad, a senior Hizballah official, who Blanford writes, "Suggested that the overflight was an attempt to 'identify an aggressive aerial passage' for an air strike against Iran."

Sounds reasonable. And, along the way, the mission looks like it was intended to test out Syria's new Russian made Pantsyr S1E short-range air defense systems, which are planned to make their way to Iran eventually.

Jane's reported on this Russian missile deal last May.

"While most of the Pantsyr’s are earmarked for the Syrian Air Defence Command, 'the end user for 10 of the systems is Iran,' said the source, adding that these should reach Tehran via Syria, in late 2008. The contract signed by Syria and Russia is valued at USD730 million and according to the source, Iran will part finance the Syrian acquisition along with payment for its own 10 systems, to recompense Damascus for its compliance in the deal. While Tehran has indicated the urgency of the requirement to Damascus, the source says the 10 systems to be transferred to Iran will not be taken from the first systems delivered to Syria, but rather from later deliveries."

Banford reports that the capabilities of this AA system is keeping US and Israeli planners up at nights.

"The recently developed Pantsyr, which its Russian manufacturers claim is immune to jamming, includes surface-to-air missiles and 30mm Gatling guns, providing complete defensive coverage for a range of 11 to 12 miles and 6 miles in altitude. Pantsyr batteries could pose a serious challenge to either an Israeli or a U.S. air strike on Iran."

The Neocons have found a new group to get suckered by:

The North Korean/Syrian nuclear angle is really something Cheney & Co. could really put their teeth into and it's coming from the so-called National Council of Resistance of Iran, an organization on the US government's Specially Designated Global Terrorist List. The NCRI is the political wing of the militant People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), also known as Mujehadin el-Khalq (MEK) according to Sourcewatch.

Scott Ritter says of this group:

"The MEK also has the support of the state of Israel. It has the support of the powerful pro-Israeli lobby here in the United States. It has the support of many members of congress, whether they have arrived at their position independently or as a result of intensive lobbying. The MEK does have a base of support among the anti-Tehran groups in Washington."

Jim Lobe wrote of the MEK over two years ago at Anti-War.com, that:

"It has been backed in this quest by right-wing lawmakers, a group of hardline neoconservatives and retired military officers called the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), and some U.S. officials – particularly in the Pentagon – who believe that the MEK could be used to help destabilize the Iranian regime, if not eventually overthrow it in conjunction with U.S. military strikes against selected targets. . .

While the group's supporters in the Pentagon so far have succeeded in protecting the several thousand MEK militants based at Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border from being dispersed or deported, they have failed to persuade the U.S. State Department to take the group off its terrorist list, to which it was added in 1997 based on its attacks during the 1970s against U.S. military contractors and its participation in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran."

Nice bunch, but their the good terrorists now, right? My God, this is the Iraqi National Congress all over again.

And it doesn't hurt their cause that Cheney's daughter, Elizabeth, is the State Department's "democracy czar" in charge of regime change in Tehran. [TIME]

The testing-air-defenses-theory confirmed?

Dan Ephron and Mark Hosenball report in the latest edition of NEWSWEEK that the Israelis are taking heart in the fact that the response to their little overflight was so muted. Yossi Alpher, a former Israeli intelligence official says, "You can learn something from it as to how the Arab world might react to an Israeli or American attack against strategic targets in Iran."

The Israelis are really eager for us to do something about Iran and its supossed nukes before Bush leaves office.

"Earlier this year, according to a well-placed Israeli source, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked President Bush for assurances that if economic and political sanctions failed to get Iran to shut down its nuclear facilities, Bush would order the U.S. military to destroy them before he leaves office. Bush has yet to provide the assurances, according to the source, who refused to be quoted because he is not authorized to speak for the government. . . from Israel's perspective, there might never be a more supportive White House. 'It makes sense that if Israel has to do it alone, it would want to do it on Bush's watch and not wait to see what the political attitude of the next administration will be," says Alpher.'"

Avner Cohen, a nuclear expert and a senior fellow at the United States Institute for Peace, is quoted saying, "It's [Isreal's incursion] a tacit reminder to Europe and to Washington that if they don't take a tougher action against Iran, Israel may have to do it alone."

Remember what Cheney told Don Imus back in Jan. of '05?

". . . One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked. If, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had a significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards." [From the NYT, thoughtfully reprinted by our friends at freerepublic.com]

So now, the theory is that based on the muted Arab response to the attack on Iran's ally, the Saudis and the rest of them will give Israel and the US a pass on a larger strike against Iran, their Persian nemesis. No muss, no fuss? I wouldn't count on it.

Sounds to me like a whole bunch of paranoia based on flawed evidence provided by exiles with an agenda not our own and a heaping helping of best-casing the eventual outcome. Where have we seen all this before?


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