When the first news about the Israeli Air Force’s recent visit to Syria broke, there was a lot of speculation about just what happened. First, it was reported that the IAF planes had “overflown” Syrian territory and dropped a fuel tank. (For the unitiated, that’s pretty normal. A lot of military aircraft carry fuel tanks underneath, then dump them when they’re empty — that’s why they’re called “drop tanks.”) That story kept growing and growing until it became a full-fledged air strike on a nuclear weapons facility deep inside Syria.
The official story, though, is… well, nothing. Syria isn’t saying much, and Israel’s saying nothing at all. In fact, the loudest protests are coming from North Korea, of all places.
So, in the absence of facts, it’s up to people to keep speculating and guessing as to what the hell was going on over there, based on what little actual facts are available.
The theory that Syria had a nuclear weapons program going on, Israel found out about it, and pulled another Osirak seems pretty wild, but not completely far-fetched.
Syria has never really seemed that interested in developing nuclear weapons, but there have been reports that they aren’t too proud to take others’ hand-me-downs. There were reports of convoys of Russian trucks pouring from Iraq to Syria just before the US invasion, and the theory was that Saddam was getting rid of a bunch of his WMD materials.
Toss in the fact that one of the loudest complainers about the attack was North Korea, who is now insisting that they have gotten rid of their nuclear weapons program, and an interesting theory begins to take shape:
North Korea needs to get rid of its nuclear program so it can say “nope, we got nothing. Come and look for yourself.” So they talk to Syria — which is at least strongly rumored to have taken Saddam’s stuff off his hands — and stuff it on to a ship headed for Syria. Syria takes the stuff, hauls it out into the desert, and (with an assist from Iran) picks up where the North Koreans left off — mixing up nuclear and chemical weapons, and the missiles to deliver them.
Then Israel finds out. They go to their ally, the US, and say “hey, you know those guys in Syria who keep backing terrorists all over the place, and are helping kill your guys in Iraq? They’re working on WMDs and missiles to deliver them out in the desert.”
The US says “yeah, right. Our spy dudes haven’t heard ANYTHING like that, and they NEVER miss anything. Except the fall of the Soviet Union. Or 9/11. Or Libya’s WMD program. Or whether or not Saddam really had WMDs. Or the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Or… um… hey, can we take a closer look at that?”
After much hemming and hawing, Israel figures that this is important enough to blow the secret that they can pretty much waltz through Syria’s air defenses (the very best the Russians can provide) any time they like, and blow the hell out of the place.
Syria, naturally, is pissed.
“Mighty Dorktator, the Jooos blew the hell out of our secret WMD base!”
“How do you know it was the Jooos, and not just another screwup?”
“They left behind notes that read ‘All Your WMD Base Are Belong To The Jooos’ and ‘Weer In Ur Desert Bombing Ur Nukes.'”
“Curse them! I shall immediately announce their perfidy and call on all the world to denounce them!”
“Curse them for what? Do we admit that we were working on nuclear and chemical weapons to bomb the Jooos, but they figured it out and bombed us first?”
“Curse them again! Well, then issue a strongly-worded denunciation for dropping a fuel tank in the middle of a desert. Say that they killed some poor nomad’s favorite camel.”
In the meantime, North Korea is pissed, too.
“We gave our best stuff to the Syrians, and they let the Jooos blow it up! Condemn them immediately!”
“Um… if we say that, Dear Leader Brillohead, then we will be admitting we had the stuff, and secretly gave it away.”
“Good point. Make it a general condemnation of Israel for bombing Syria, then report to the Soylent Green plant for contradicting me.”
Yeah, it’s a fairly unfounded theory, but it does what any good theory does: it explains the known facts in a plausible — and simple — manner.
I find myself wondering if this is the sort of thing that we really ought to bring much light to. Perhaps I’ve read too many technothrillers and tales of international intrigue and high-stakes politics, but I have to consider whether this is best handled quietly — no public admissions one way or another, just the message that “we know what you’re working on, and we won’t let you go too far.” That avoids the whole issue of public pride and escalating demands and threats.
Luckily, that doesn’t apply to me. I can speculate and ruminate and concoct all sorts of theories and scenarios without fear of actually having any influence on global matters.
But one thing remains absolutely and completely indisputable: SOMETHING happened out in the Syrian desert. SOMETHING Syrian was visited by Israel, and none of the parties directly involved wants to discuss it publicly.
I just hope those people who aren’t publicly looking into it are doing a hell of a lot more privately.