Big Hole in the Desert?

A little over a week ago, I was startled by a headline on NewsNow* mentioning an Israeli air strike on Syria. No one seems to really know what happened. On September 6, Israel launched as many as 8 fighter jets and flew across Syria – possibly bombing … well, something. There are rumours and hints: Syria claims Israel violated their airspace and Syrian air forces drove them off, an early report from US sources claimed that Israel had bombed a Syrian shipment of weapons to Hezbollah and Israeli reports gave nothing away but said that air force officers were looking pleased with themselves. All in all, it is quite a mystery.

Now the Washington Post and the New York Times are running with the story but once again, their reporting appears more driven by White House leaks and spin than reality. This latest version of the story claims that there are North Koreans in Syria and they are helping the Syrians to build nuclear weapons capacity.

We do know that some of the most dangerous White House cadre are making statements which increase the fear factor:

At the end of August, John Bolton wrote a hawkish OpEd in the Wall Street Journal about the current negotiations with North Korea – ending with:

Finally, we need to learn the details of North Korean nuclear cooperation with other countries. We know that both Iran and Syria have long cooperated with North Korea on ballistic missile programs, and the prospect of cooperation on nuclear matters is not far-fetched. Whether and to what extent Iran, Syria or others might be “safe havens” for North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, or may have already participated with or benefited from it, must be made clear.

Then we have this report in the Jerusalem Post last week about a Washington Post report of a possible North Korean – Syrian nuclear cooperation:

The report was based on new intelligence the United States has gathered over the past six months, the bulk allegedly from Israel, which includes dramatic satellite imagery that has led some US officials to believe the facility could be used to produce material for nuclear weapons.

The new information, particularly images received in the past 30 days, has been restricted to just a few senior officials under the instructions of national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, leaving many in the intelligence community unaware of it or uncertain of its significance, sources told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity.

And we have Condi Rice telling Fox when asked about Syria possibly building nuclear capacity:

It is our duty to take a stance on countries, and prevent the most dangerous people in the world from acquiring the most dangerous weapons in the world, and that is what we are doing everyday,” Rice said during an interview on FOX News.

When Bolton, Hadley and Rice are all involved … well, I start to worry.

Perhaps the best analysis of this mystery can be found in the quote from Joseph Cirincione, senior fellow and director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, quoted on the Foreign Policy Passport blog:

The real story is how quickly the New York Times and the Washington Post snapped up the bait and ran exactly the story the officials wanted, thereby feeding a mini-media frenzy. It appears that nothing, not even a disastrous and unnecessary war, can break this Pavlovian response to an “intelligence scoop.”

But most chilling may be Christiane Amanpour’s CNN report:

Senior CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, citing Middle Eastern and Washington sources, said aircraft and possibly even ground forces, who may have directed the planes to their target, took part in the operation.

The attack left “a big hole in the desert,” the report said. CNN quoted U.S. government and military sources as saying they were “happy to have Israel convey to both Syria and Iran the message that they can get in and out and strike when necessary.”

Whatever happened on September 6th, I suspect we’re going to be hearing more about a “nuclear” Syria to go along with the warmongering towards Iran. Somehow Randy Newman seems like the most apt soundtrack these days.

Update:Israel boasted on Sunday it has recovered its “deterrent capability” after an air strike in Syria triggered warnings of retaliation and intense media speculation over the aim of the operation.”

*NewsNow is a great resource – h/t to markfromireland for first introducing me to it.

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