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Sunday, August 29, 2010

How the IAF destroyed the al-Kibar nuclear reactor

YNet has a fascinating excerpt from a recently released book by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, called "Mossad – The Great Operations" (Hat Tip: Zvi F). The excerpt discusses how the Mossad and the IDF (and the US) found out that North Korea was building a nuclear reactor for Syria at Iranian expense, how Israel validated the information and how it destroyed the reactor. There's much more there as well. I suggest you read the whole thing. Here's a small excerpt to tempt you.
On February 7, 2007, Iranian General Ali Reza Askari, formerly a senior Revolutionary Guard official and deputy defense minister, arrived in Damascus from Tehran. He stayed in the Syrian capital until he ensured his family was on its way out of Iran, before continuing to Turkey and disappearing in Istanbul. A month later, it turned out that Askari defected to the West in an operation planned by the US in conjunction with Israel. He was questioned in a US base in Europe – apparently in Germany – and revealed some of Tehran's and Damascus' deepest secrets. Askari exposed the three-way relationship involving Syria, North Korea, and Iran. He told his interrogators that Tehran was encouraging and funding the establishment of the Syrian nuclear reactor. He provided further details about the reactor's condition and about the Iranians assisting and advising the Syrians.


The information prompted Israel to go into operational alert. The Mossad earmarked manpower and resources to verify the details provided by the Iranian general. Then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened Israel's security chiefs for a special meeting; during the session they agreed that Israel must act urgently to acquire credible proof of the reactor's existence. It was clear to all that Israel could not accept the prospect of Syria, its bitter, belligerent rival, turning into a nuclear power. Within a few months, Mossad and Military Intelligence chiefs were able to present the prime minister with the incriminating evidence he sought. Five months after Askari's defection, the search took its next turn: The material uncovered in the Syrian official's computer in London. Meanwhile, Mossad registered another success: It managed to recruit one of the reactor's employees, who provided numerous photographs and a video shot inside the building gradually taking shape.

Israel made sure to update the US, in real-time, about all the material it managed to acquire, including up-to-date satellite images and tapped conversations between North Korea and Damascus. Israeli pressure also prompted the US utilize its own spy satellites. Soon, up-to-date material was accumulated including images elicited through America's advanced satellites and materials acquired via electronic means, showing that the Syrians were building the reactor rapidly.

In June 2007, PM Olmert traveled to Washington to present all the material gathered by Israel; at the conclusion of a lengthy discussion with President George W. Bush, Olmert informed the US president that he decided to strike the Syrian reactor. The Americans were still hesitant, however. Israel recommended a military strike, but the US refused. According to credible American sources, the White House eventually decided that "the US prefers not to strike." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates attempted to convince Israel to confront the Syrians, but not to attack.

In July 2007, Israel held aerial patrols above the reactor and elicited images of the activity at the site via satellite Ofek 7. The images were analyzed by American and Israeli experts, who ruled that Syria is building a nuclear reactor based on the North Korean model. In fact, the experts reached the conclusion that the reactors were identical. Meanwhile, Israel's intelligence-gathering Unit 8200 provided records of conversations between Syrian scientists and North Korea experts. This information was also handed over to Washington, but the Americans demanded unequivocal proof that the facility will be used as a nuclear reactor, and that nuclear materials are already at the site. Israel decided to supply this information as well.


The "smoking gun" was found in August 2007. The clear-cut evidence was acquired by the elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit, which headed to the site under cover of darkness on board two helicopters. Nobody spotted the troops as they landed near Dir al-Zur. Using specialized equipment, they took several soil samples that contained radioactive materials. The findings were urgently relayed to US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who was stunned by the revelations. He quickly summoned top experts to draw conclusions and report to President Bush during their morning meeting.

Following the expert assessment, Hadley was convinced the matter at hand was serious. He held a lengthy discussion with Israel's Military Intelligence and Mossad chiefs, thereby reaching the conclusion that the reactor constitutes a substantive threat. The US was convinced that the reactor should be destroyed. According to the British Sunday Times, PM Olmert then convened Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; the three leaders discussed the expected implications of a military strike in Syria with top security officials. After hours of deliberations, they decided to go ahead and wipe out the reactor. Olmert informed Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu of the decision.
Like I said, read the whole thing.

My guess is that there are IDF troops already on the ground in Iran and there is a lot we are not being told.

Oh and if anyone wants to send me the book, please feel free.


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