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Mystery Solved: Israel Struck Syrian Nuclear Reactor

by @ 8:04 am on October 14, 2007. Filed under Foreign Affairs, Israel, North Korea, Syria

For several weeks, questions having been brewing about what exactly happened in Syria on September 6th. Israel isn’t talking, and the United States has denied anything actually happened. Last week, Syria took the step of taking reporters on a tour showing that nothing had happened.

When that many people are denying that something happened, you can be sure of one thing…..something happened.

Now, apparently, we have a better idea of what it is. Apparently, Israeli warplanes bombed a partially constructed nuclear reactor:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 — 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.

The description of the target addresses one of the central mysteries surrounding the Sept. 6 attack, and suggests that Israel carried out the raid to demonstrate its determination to snuff out even a nascent nuclear project in a neighboring state. The Bush administration was divided at the time about the wisdom of Israel’s strike, American officials said, and some senior policy makers still regard the attack as premature.

The attack, of course, is reminiscent of Israel’s 1981 attack on the Iraq’s nuclear reactor, which is credited with setting back that country’s nuclear weapons program several decades. The difference this time is that Israel seems to have decided to attack at a point when Syria’s program was a much earlier stage:

[T]he facility that the Israelis struck in Syria appears to have been much further from completion, the American and foreign officials said. They said it would have been years before the Syrians could have used the reactor to produce the spent nuclear fuel that could, through a series of additional steps, be reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.

The fact that nobody’s saying much about this would seem to indicate that the raid was successful and that the Syrians, and possibly the North Koreans, were caught red-handed. It also stands as a message from the Israelis that, regardless of what Washington might say, they will not permit nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

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