Flash Gordon Left Me The Keys

The TEST OF ALL MOTHERS

Sunday, February 03, 2008

 
Syrian Bombing
ISRAELI planes last week bombed and destroyed a northern Syrian missile base that was financed by Iran, an Arab Israeli newspaper reported.
Citing anonymous Israeli sources, the Assennara newspaper said Israeli jets "bombed in northern Syria a Syrian-Iranian missile base financed by Iran ... It appears that the base was completely destroyed".
Syria, on Tuesday, lodged a formal complaint with the UN over the "flagrant violation" of its airspace last Thursday, during which it said its air defences opened fire on Israeli warplanes flying over the northeast of the country.
Israeli officials have refused to comment on the report, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "instructed ministers not to talk about the incident related to Syria at all", a senior Israeli government official said.
A US defence official said on Tuesday that Israel had launched an air strike well inside Syria, apparently to send Damascus a message not to rearm Shia Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
The official did not know the target of the strike: "The Israelis are trying to tell the Syrians: 'Don't support a resurgence of Hezbollah in Lebanon'."
CNN said the strike, which could also have involved ground forces, was believed to have targeted weapons either coming into Syria or moving through Syria from Iran to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
All Still Quiet on the Syria Bombing
It was two months ago tomorrow that Israeli warplanes bombed what Israel and the United States believed was a nascent Syrian nuclear complex along the shore of the Euphrates River. But the political shock waves that should have accompanied that remarkable event -- which was both an audacious act of preemption and a revelation of an apparent Syrian bomb program-- have been bottled up by the decisions of the Israeli government and the Bush administration not to speak publicly about the strike.
Now Israeli and U.S. officials are quietly debating whether to go on the record and allow those shock waves to explode across the
Middle East and beyond. At stake are not only Israel's tense relations with Syria, which so far has chosen not to retaliate, but a host of other pressure points: Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; the integrity of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Western leverage over Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad; and -- not least -- the fragile U.S. nuclear bargain with North Korea, which is believed to have aided the secret construction.
For the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert, the decision to suppress news of the strike in September -- including the military censorship of Israel's aggressively free press -- was pretty straightforward. Trumpeting the successful attack not only would have prompted global denunciations of Israel but might have pushed Assad into launching an attack on the Golan Heights or a missile at Tel Aviv. The architect of the attack, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is a former head of Israel's most elite clandestine commando squad, and he remains convinced that military special operations are best kept secret.
Two months later that calculus hasn't much changed. Barak and Olmert are still worried enough about a Syrian military response to have moved an upcoming military exercise off the Golan; Olmert and other senior officials have been dropping hints about opening political negotiations with
Damascus. Olmert knows that full disclosure of the operation would probably blow up the Israeli-Palestinian peace meeting in Annapolis that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hopes to convene this month. Among other problems, Arab states that Olmert and Rice hope will attend would surely cancel if they were obliged to react to an event that they have so far pointedly ignored.
Outside
Jerusalem and the State Department, however, pressure for an official account of the raid -- or more important, for the intelligence that prompted it -- is growing. The International Atomic Energy Agency and its freelancing director, Mohamed ElBaradei, want to investigate the alleged reactor site. The agency's experts have been studying aerial photographs and asking U.S. officials for information. In theory, at least, an IAEA probe could compound the blow suffered by Assad by forcing him to explain -- on pain of possible sanctions by the U.N. Security Council -- whether and how Syria violated its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
So far the Bush administration has refused to cooperate with ElBaradei, who has all but openly sided with
Iran in its attempt to deflect U.N. orders to freeze its uranium enrichment. Having debunked U.S. claims about a reborn Iraqi nuclear program in early 2003, ElBaradei would be certain to seize on any ambiguities in the Israeli and U.S. evidence about the Syrian reactor. If he raised doubts that the project was intended to produce plutonium, both Olmert and the Bush administration would be damaged.
There is, however, a petitioner much tougher to resist than the IAEA director: Republican representatives who are demanding that "every member of Congress be briefed on this incident, and as soon as possible," as Reps.
Peter Hoekstra and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen put it in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. The two House members were already briefed because of their positions as ranking minority members on the intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees; what they heard evidently convinced them that possible covert collaboration between Syria and North Korea needs to be fully aired and debated before the United States proceeds with negotiations to end North Korea's bomb program.
Here some Bush administration officials are sympathetic. They have been frustrated by what they describe as the stubborn resistance of Rice to connect what was discovered in Syria to the North Korean disarmament talks. Rice's North Korean point man, Assistant Secretary
Christopher Hill, told Congress last month that Pyongyang had been asked to disclose any cooperation with Syria as part of a promised full report on its weapons programs.

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