New York Times: Israel bombed Syrian nuke plant

Israel’s September attack in Syria was indeed directed against a nuclear reactor site under construction, report David E. Sanger and Mark Mazzetti for The New York Times

Israel’s air attack on Syria last month was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel, according to American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports.

The description of the target addresses one of the central mysteries surrounding the Sept. 6 attack, and suggests that Israel carried out the raid to demonstrate its determination to snuff out even a nascent nuclear project in a neighboring state. The Bush administration was divided at the time about the wisdom of Israel’s strike, American officials said, and some senior policy makers still regard the attack as premature.

The attack on the reactor project has echoes of an Israeli raid more than a quarter century ago, in 1981, when Israel destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq shortly before it was to have begun operating. That attack was officially condemned by the Reagan administration, though Israelis consider it among their military’s finest moments. In the weeks before the Iraq war, Bush administration officials said they believed that the attack set back Iraq’s nuclear ambitions by many years.

By contrast, the facility that the Israelis struck in Syria appears to have been much further from completion, the American and foreign officials said. They said it would have been years before the Syrians could have used the reactor to produce the spent nuclear fuel that could, through a series of additional steps, be reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.

Many details remain unclear, most notably how much progress the Syrians had made in construction before the Israelis struck, the role of any assistance provided by North Korea, and whether the Syrians could make a plausible case that the reactor was intended to produce electricity.

Read the whole article at the above link. Had Syria sought “peaceful” nuclear power to produce electricity, they scarcely would have dealt with the North Koreans, who can barely keep lights on in their own capital. The French or the Russians would have been far more logical suppliers.

No, the secrecy and reluctance even to admit a facility was destroyed demonstrate a need to conceal, from which follows it was not something innocent. This is confirmed by the tepid condemnations from the Arab League and its member nations, who seemed barely able to muster a collective “harrumph” at the attack.

This news, of course, was long suspected and anticipated, and it had been the accepted working hypothesis almost since the day of the attack.

The real message of the raid was to Iran. Despite Syria’s extensive and expensive Russian air defense systems, the Israelis entered and left undetected. This must have been an unnerving realization for Tehran, whose air defense systems also come from Russia.

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