CommunityFDL Main Blog

Puzzling over that Israeli Attack on Syria … Again

c31e55f6-c4a4-4371-9ae1-7705cb18bcda.jpgThat Israeli attack on Syria has been in the news again … and the story gets more confusing with each new report. Last weekend we had a spate of news reports complete with “experts” and photos claiming to prove that the site hit was a North Korean style nuclear facility – days later a story started to circulate that the September raid had actually been flown by the US Air Force – and in what seems to be a mistranslation, involved the use of tactical nukes!

If you recall, in early September the Israelis flew a mission over Syria and apparently bombed something – that seems to be the only thing everyone agrees with.

At the time of the initial reports CNN’s Christiane Amanpour 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.”

But mostly secrecy reigned with Bush refusing to comment and Olmert playing coy – though he did sorta apologize to Turkey: “If Israeli planes indeed penetrated Turkish airspace, then it was without prior intent or any intent to infringe upon or undermine Turkish sovereignty, which we respect,” a statement from Olmert’s office cited him as telling the Cabinet – until reports last weekend that the site had been identified on satelitte photos of the area – and we had a new round of reports from “experts” that Syria, with North Korean help, was trying to build a nuclear bomb. (read: be very afraid!)

While Mohamed Elbaradei was noting that both Israel and the US had provided no information to the International Atomic Energy Agency about alleged Syrian nuclear activity before the strike which they should have done if their fears of Syrian nuclear plans were real, the Washington establishment preferred their own “intelligence.”

But once again, the intel was not so intelligent. The best deconstruction of this event so far appeared over at Moon of Alabama where Bernard sorts it all out – and I thought Firepups would find his analysis interesting:

Bernard looks at “Famed reporter Robin Wright’s” report in the Washington Post where she claims:

Photographs of the site taken before the secret Sept. 6 airstrike depict an isolated compound that includes a tall, boxy structure similar to the type of building used to house a gas-graphite reactor. They also show what could have been a pumping station used to supply cooling water for a reactor, say experts David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

And then he takes a look at those “independent experts:”

Hmmm – independent experts … well … Paul Brannan got his BA in Government(!) in 2004 and is working at ISIS since then. ISIS itself has some four employees and its website doesn’t reveal how it finances itself.

Brannan, of ISIS, combed through a huge amount of satellite imagery to find a site along the Euphrates that matches a reactor’s specifications as well as descriptions of the attack site.

The ISIS analysis of the picture Mr. Brannan found is now available. It includes an aerial photograph of some building half a mile from the Euphrates that distinguishes itself by having approximately the same outer dimensions as the building that houses the North Korean Yongbyon reactor. That, and only that, is the big find the ISIS folks have. They note though that the Syrian building somehow has a smaller roof?

They also find some other slight differences like the unexplained lack of a reactor vessel that should be visible during the multiyear construction of such a site. But they assert that there are roads and a few trucks and signs of recent use of earth moving machines. There is also water pumped from the Euphrat and a few miles away something that might be a dirt airstrip. I am certain that is all very significant.

But topping all of this the experts Msr. Albright and Brennan also assert:

North Korean reactor construction is based on an old Russian model …

But the Yongbyon reactor, which these experts compare the Syrian site to, is a copy of the British Magnox design and certainly not based on anything Russian. Experts???

But indeed, Robin Wright tells us that these are ‘very serious people’ and certainly independent experts on reactor design issues.

The site ISIS claims to have found is quite in the middle of eastern Syria, some 80 miles south of the Turkish-Syrian boarder. A month ago some Robin Wright wrote in another WaPo piece on the issue:

The target of Israel’s attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border.

She of course doesn’t make any attempt to solve the contradiction from her old to the newest ‘report’. Not that anybody would care. Nobody is looking for fire here. Lots of smoke is all that’s needed.

But just in case you live in a “tall, boxy structure similar to the type of building used to house a gas-graphite reactor,” please beware of U.S./Israeli F-16s.

I’m still not sure what happened in that Israeli attack – but watching this manufacturing of “experts” and intel” to justify it is a very good reminder to all of us to also beware as we move closer to an attack on Iran.

Take a look at the comments and full post over at Moon of Alabama – and also the discussion at the Agonist for some very solid discussion of all of this. (A special h/t to Bernard and annie for their very helpful discussion of US nukes Syria version of the story with me last night which can be read here. )

So anyone want to guess what the Israelis bombed … and why?

Update: Bernard points to this new post of Pat Lang’s as well:

The Syrian air strike farce is not re-assuring in this matter. It is increasingly clear that the target was insignificant and that the motivation for the attack is buried in the collective Israeli psychology of insecurity, siege and unwillingness to rely on anyone else (including the US) for anything.

The US should stop worrying about diplomacy among the mischievous and start worrying more about possible strategic catastrophe.

A blogtalkradio update: This Thursday at 11:30 AM ET on EPluribus Radio. Adam Lambert will be interviewing “Katie” whose story was told here. Katie is – as Adam wrote – “a mother of 10, grandmother and minister in the American Baptist Church in Erie, PA (who was) thrown in jail for 5 days for a peaceful protest against the war in Iraq. Oh yeah, she is a war mother with 2 sons that have served/are serving.” There’s more to the story and it should be fascinating listening!

Previous post

Next post

Sunday Late Nite: Hope



Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com