After Israel bombed a Syrian military facility last September, the United States and Israel both claimed the target had been a Syrian nuclear facility under construction.RAW STORY‘s Larisa Alexandrovna was alone at the time in reporting that the actual target was a cache of North Korean No-Dong missiles, dating back to the 1990’s, which Syria was converting for use as chemical warheads.
In a follow-up report, Alexandrovna added that Vice President Dick Cheney was suspected of being behind leaks to the press of misleading claims of a nuclear basis for the incident.
In an effort to expand its military presence in the international arena and reestablish a naval presence in the Middle East, Russia has dispatched a naval fleet to the region, including a guided missile cruiser, two anti submarine ships and 47 fighter planes. The fleet will dock at the Syrian port of Tartus where Russia maintains a technical base. At the same port, Iranian ships are also docked.
IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.
At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.
Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.
By Donald Macintyrein Jerusalem
Published: 15 September 2007
Israel is still maintaining official silence a week after Syria complained that Israeli aircraft invaded its airspace in a mysterious incident which raised tensions and triggered a welter of US media speculation about possible targets for the operation.
Explanations – for what anonymous US officials have said was a strike inside Syria – range from suggesting it was aimed at the shipment of weapons to Hizbollah from Iran, to saying Syria may be building a nuclear facility with North Korean help.
Syria, which has asked for a formal complaint to be “circulated” to the UN Security Council, said last week that Israeli aircraft unloaded ammunition after being spotted and fired on by its air defences but inflicted no damage.
Reuters, The New York Times and CNN have all quoted officials – mainly in the US – as saying that Israel carried out a strike in Syria. Reuters quoted an unnamed US official on Wednesday as saying: “The strike I can confirm. The target I can’t.” The agency quoted another US official as saying that reports on the targets were “confused”.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported this week a US official as saying that recent satellite imagery, mainly provided by Israel, suggested that Syria may building some form of nuclear facility with the help of material unloaded by North Korea.
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 49 minutes ago
ROME – A senior U.S. nuclear official said Friday that North Koreans were in Syria and that Damascus may have had contacts with “secret suppliers” to obtain nuclear equipment.
Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation policy, did not identify the suppliers, but said North Koreans were in the country and that he could not exclude that the network run by the disgraced Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan may have been involved.
He said it was not known if the contacts had produced any results. “Whether anything transpired remains to be seen,” he said.
Syria has never commented publicly on its nuclear program. It has a small research nuclear reactor, as do several other countries in the region, including Egypt. While Israel and the U.S. have expressed concerns in the past, Damascus has not been known to make a serious push to develop a nuclear energy or weapons program.