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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Strike against Syria was 'in the works for months'

So much for all those reports that Israel's strike against Syria was triggered by a September 3 'cement delivery' from North Korea that was really nuclear equipment. ABC News is reporting tonight that the strike was 'in the works for months' and in fact was delayed several times at the United States' request. And ABC reports that the facility was nuclear and had been there 'for months, if not years.'

In early July the Israelis presented the United States with satellite imagery that they said showed a nuclear facility in Syria. They had additional evidence that they said showed that some of the technology was supplied by North Korea.

One U.S. official told ABC's Martha Raddatz the material was "jaw dropping" because it raised questions as to why U.S. intelligence had not previously picked up on the facility.


"Israel tends to be very thorough about its intelligence coverage, particularly when it takes a major military step, so they would not have acted without data from several sources," said ABC military consultant Tony Cordesman.


A senior U.S. official said the Israelis planned to strike during the week of July 14 and in secret high-level meetings American officials argued over how to respond to the intelligence.

Some in the administration supported the Israeli action, but others, notably Sect. of State Condoleeza Rice did not. One senior official said the U.S. convinced the Israelis to "confront Syria before attacking."

Officials said they were concerned about the impact an attack on Syria would have on the region. And given the profound consequences of the flawed intelligence in Iraq, the U.S. wanted to be absolutely certain the intelligence was accurate.

Initially, administration officials convinced the Israelis to call off the July strike. But in September the Israelis feared that news of the site was about to leak and went ahead with the strike despite U.S. concerns.

Once again we have a largely believable report based on the word of 'officials.' It would be nice if someone discussed this for attribution, but I suspect it will be 30-40 years before that happens.

I find it hard to believe that Israel has been tolerating a Syrian nuclear facility for 'years' although 'months' might be believable depending how far along it was in developing nuclear weapons.

This report still doesn't answer the question of where the fallout went if the facility was nuclear. I may have been wrong in calling it a chemical weapons plant, but then again, I may not have been.

Three other observations: Note that Condoleeza Rice was opposed to the attack. I think we'd have to live through an Iranian or Syrian first strike - God forbid - before Condi would consider supporting a response.

'Confronting Syria' about the facility is the stupidest idea I have ever heard. Why don't we just tell them when and how we are going to strike it! Note that the report doesn't follow through on that piece, and my guess is that Israel never said a word to Syria about it.

Third, I don't know how Israel could have gone through with the strike "despite U.S. concerns" when it is clear to all that the US had to play along at least to the extent of not firing on the Israeli aircraft since the location in Syria is so close to the Iraqi border.


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