September 16, 2007

THE IDENTITY OF THE REAL ENENMY SLOWLY DAWNS:

Was Israeli raid a dry run for attack on Iran?: Mystery surrounds last week's air foray into Syrian territory. The Observer's Foreign Affairs Editor attempts to unravel the truth behind Operation Orchard and allegations of nuclear subterfuge (Peter Beaumont, September 16, 2007, Observer)

Amid the confusion there were troubling details that chimed uncomfortably with the known facts. Two detachable tanks from an Israeli fighter were found just over the Turkish border. According to Turkish military sources, they belonged to a Raam F15I - the newest generation of Israeli long-range bomber, which has a combat range of over 2,000km when equipped with the drop tanks. This would enable them to reach targets in Iran, leading to speculation that it was an 'operation rehearsal' for a raid on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

Finally, however, at the week's end, the first few tangible details were beginning to emerge about Operation Orchard from a source involved in the Israeli operation.

They were sketchy, but one thing was absolutely clear. Far from being a minor incursion, the Israeli overflight of Syrian airspace through its ally, Turkey, was a far more major affair involving as many as eight aircraft, including Israel's most ultra-modern F-15s and F-16s equipped with Maverick missiles and 500lb bombs. Flying among the Israeli fighters at great height, The Observer can reveal, was an ELINT - an electronic intelligence gathering aircraft.

What was becoming clear by this weekend amid much scepticism, largely from sources connected with the administration of President George Bush, was the nature of the allegation, if not the facts.

In a series of piecemeal leaks from US officials that gave the impression of being co-ordinated, a narrative was laid out that combined nuclear skulduggery and the surviving members of the 'axis of evil': Iran, North Korea and Syria.

It also combined a series of neoconservative foreign policy concerns: that North Korea was not being properly monitored in the deal struck for its nuclear disarmament and was off-loading its material to Iran and Syria, both of which in turn were helping to rearm Hizbollah.

Underlying all the accusations was a suggestion that recalled the bogus intelligence claims that led to the war against Iraq: that the three countries might be collaborating to supply an unconventional weapon to Hizbollah.

It is not only the raid that is odd but also, ironically, the deliberate air of mystery surrounding it, given Israel's past history of bragging about similar raids, including an attack on an Iraqi reactor. It was a secrecy so tight, in fact, that even as the Israeli aircrew climbed into the cockpits of their planes they were not told the nature of the target they were being ordered to attack.

According to an intelligence expert quoted in the Washington Post who spoke to aircrew involved in the raid, the target of the attack, revealed only to the pilots while they were in the air, was a northern Syrian facility that was labelled as an agricultural research centre on the Euphrates river, close to the Turkish border.

According to this version of events, a North Korean ship, officially carrying a cargo of cement, docked three days before the raid in the Syrian port of Tartus. That ship was also alleged to be carrying nuclear equipment.

It is an angle that has been pushed hardest by the neoconservative hawk and former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. But others have entered the fray, among them the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who, without mentioning Syria by name, suggested to Fox television that the raid was linked to stopping unconventional weapons proliferation.

Most explicit of all was Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant Secretary of State for nuclear non-proliferation policy, who, speaking in Rome yesterday, insisted that 'North Koreans were in Syria' and that Damascus may have had contacts with 'secret suppliers' to obtain nuclear equipment.

'There are indicators that they do have something going on there,' he said. 'We do know that there are a number of foreign technicians that have been in Syria. We do know that there may have been contact between Syria and some secret suppliers for nuclear equipment. Whether anything transpired remains to be seen.

'So good foreign policy, good national security policy, would suggest that we pay very close attention to that,' he said. 'We're watching very closely. Obviously, the Israelis were watching very closely.'


Leaving Syria off of the Axis of Evil was an obvious mistake. If its regime survives the Bush presidency it will be one of the President's most significant failures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2007 12:00 AM
Comments

"It was a secrecy so tight, in fact, that even as the Israeli aircrew climbed into the cockpits of their planes they were not told the nature of the target they were being ordered to attack."
This is not credible. The military extensively briefs their personel prior to a mission, to the extent of simulations and mock exercises. Operational security dictates them not getting their final orders while actually flying to their target.

Posted by: jd watson at September 16, 2007 9:31 AM

When we withdraw from Iraq,it should be through northern Syria, from Kurdistan, where the Kurds can help protect our back, with USA air support.Our port of departure would be Latakia, liberated by a Naval/Marine/Airborne operation concurrent with the march from Kurdistan, which would be spearheaded by an air/armored incursion. On the way we would liberate the Kurds in northern Syria to become part of Kurdistan.Eventually, a pipeline could be financed from the Kurdish oilfields to their Latakian port. All of the territory, bordering on Turkey, would temporarily be an American or UN protectorate. The Alawi might also welcome liberation from Sunni domination.

Just fantasizing.

Posted by: Genecis at September 16, 2007 9:32 AM
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