View Full Version : Over the Skies of Syria

09-18-07, 08:18 AM
Over the Skies of Syria

By Micah Halpern
The Micah Report | 9/18/2007

What really happened on September 6th, hours before daylight, when Israeli planes flew over Turkish airspace and crossed into Syria? The question is being asked almost obsessively by members of the intelligence and diplomatic communities, by military analysts and political analysts, by friends and foes of Israel, by those people concerned with the happenings in the Middle East.

Everyone, it seems, is voicing an opinion. And then, as new details emerge, voicing another opinion, another take on the situation. Admittedly, I am as guilty as others. Everyone has something to say, everyone except Israel.

Israel has been uncharacteristically silent on this question. The country famous for military censored, politically sensitive and top secret information leaks has installed a double deep lock on the details of this foray over hostile skies. Not a word has been spoken, no explanation or analysis has found its way into print - nada, nothing, "gornisht."

So what do I think really happened and why do I think it happened? I can make only one definitive statement about the entire situation, the rest is all speculation - educated, insightful speculation.

The only absolute conclusion I have reached given the available information and sketchy intel and taking into accounts the reports that have so far been received, is to say that I feel confident that whatever Syria has said is totally unreliable. To that I would add that the comments of North Korea have been obvious obfuscations. That leaves us with a big problem. With two such unreliable parties as principle players in this situation, with the third party keeping completely mum, how can I piece together what really happened?

My analysis is also based on past experience, patterns of behavior and instinct. What probably happened is that North Korea and Syria thought it would be a good idea to amass nuclear warheads and hold them as a surprise weapon against Israel. North Korea has the weapons and Syria wants them. Both countries are pariah nations and they are co-joined in their antipathy to the West, principally the United States which, by extension, means Israel.

Intelligence from Turkey as well as from several non-official Israeli sources shows that this was more than a plan. Syria was actually in receipt of the weapons. In fact, a Kuwaiti newspaper asserts that Turkey officially pointed out to Israel the location of the warheads.

Missiles were sent to Syria by way of several ships flying North Korean flags. The vessels made their way first to Port Said, Egypt and then to Syria. Once they were in Syria the materials were unloaded and transported to the mountain region. That is where Israeli planes found and destroyed them.

Ronen Solomon, an Israeli researcher who watches the movement of ships using local port information and websites for tracking, has been quoted as saying that the ships arrived in Syria on September 3rd which would put the drop three days before the air strike. The cargo was listed as cement. The flags were North Korean.

If you were to search the Syrian website listing the arrivals of these ships right now, you would find no entry on North Korean ships delivering cement. The file has not been deleted, it has been white washed. The entry now lists the arrival of a ship bearing "no flag." That is not only an untruth, it is against international law. All ships must fly under a country flag and no ship is permitted entry into a port unless it has been registered with a country.

One Israeli pilot has been quoted as saying neither he nor his colleagues in the sky knew the details of the plan until they were airborne. That makes sense given the propensity for leaks in Israel. I have also heard that a special, extremely high flying scouting plane was also sent up along with the fighter planes. As many as eight planes were involved in the operation.

The most astounding piece of information to emerge about Israel's handling of this top secret operation is the report that Israeli ground troops were sent into the region days before the pre dawn flight gathering intelligence and specifying and confirming the projected targets. It seems that the ground soldiers literally used lasers to pinpoint the targets on the ground as markers for the pilots. Then the pilots went home and never said a word.

More than taking out missiles that were clearly aimed at them, the Israelis were sending a message. It was a message to the entire region, including Iran. And the message has been received loud and clear, probably because it was conveyed with accuracy and precision but probably also because it came without spin, without excuse, without cover-up or disingenuous apology.

Do not amass nuclear weapons that are intended for use against Israel.

And that's my take on the events of September 6th, 2007 over the skies of Syria.


09-18-07, 08:21 AM
Attacking Syria: Focusing on Iran
by Chuck Freilich (more by this author)
Posted 09/18/2007 ET

Two weeks ago, Israeli air force jets apparently conducted a secret raid in Syria. Uncharacteristically, Israel has remained totally mum on the issue, a clear indication of the importance it attaches to it. Speculation in the media has been rampant, covering the entire gamut of possible targets, including an attack on a Syrian or Iranian arms shipment to Hizballah and the destruction of a nuclear facility that North Korea is now reported to have supplied to Syria.

We may never know what exactly happened, but a few points are worth emphasizing. The Middle East is increasingly going nuclear. The Iraqi program has been stopped, at least for the foreseeable future and Libya, having learned from the Iraqi precedent, voluntarily agreed to dismantle its program, in exchange for renewed relations with the US. The Iranian program, however, is rapidly reaching the critical turning point. Israel, long been thought to be a nuclear power as well, views an Iranian nuclear capability as a threat to its very existence. The Sunni regimes, including Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, even Jordan and others, are petrified at the very thought that their Shiite neighbor may soon be able to use its nuclear capabilities to further advance its hegemonic aspirations and dictate events in the region. In response, they are now giving increasing attention to possible “civil” nuclear programs of their own. “Civil” nuclear programs, as we know, have a pesky tendency to morph into military ones.

The thought that Syria, an unofficial, but de-facto member in nefarious standing in the “axis of evil”, may have an active nuclear program, far more advanced than heretofore known, is particularly worrisome. Rabidly dictatorial, already armed with a massive arsenal of chemical weapons, Syria has long been a regional spoiler. It is today an ally of Iran’s, with an increasingly close “strategic” military relationship. Together with Iran, Syria arms and gives various other types of support to Hizballah, Hamas, the insurgents in Iraq and other highly “savory” groups. Tensions along the border between Syria and Israel have also grown in recent months, increasing the risk of a military clash.

A multi-nuclear Middle East is a nightmare scenario the likes of which the world has yet to face. While it would not pose the threat of an end to humanity, as in the Cold War, in some ways a nuclear Middle East poses even greater dangers, if only because of the far greater prospects that nukes might actually be used. This would certainly be true in the case of a multi-nuclear Middle East. For the US, moreover, the danger of being drawn into a nuclear crisis would rise exponentially.

Iran is of course the greatest worry. A nuclear Iran would place most of the world's oil -- simply the world economy and western way of life -- under the threat of a regime whose extremist ideology is inspired by an aggressive interpretation of the divine word and an implacable opposition to Western values. Vociferously anti-American, despite attempts at rapprochement, Iran is explicitly committed to the destruction of Israel and developing the capabilities to do so.

The US-led diplomatic effort to bring the Iranian nuclear program to an end appears to be rapidly running its course. After months of talks in the Security Council, the US is now making a major push to convince the other members to join it in a third resolution condemning Iran, one which would, hopefully, impose sanctions with would finally have some true “teeth.” Russia and China remain recalcitrant and even if they ultimately agree to adopt some resolution, it is clear that the sanctions they agree to will be the bare minimum they believe they can accede to, without forcing the US to act independently, outside of the restrictive confines of the Security Council. In any event, it is highly unlikely that they will agree to further steps and to cooperate with the US in imposing the kind of overwhelming sanctions that might just be sufficient to actually get the Iranians, who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the continuing their nuclear program, to acquiesce.

What this means is that sometime in the near future, quite possibly during the upcoming election year, American policymakers will be faced with the decision of how to truly deal with the Iranian threat. Various options still remain before one has to contemplate direct military action, such as US sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard, a primary political and economic force in Iran, which would have a major effect on Russian and Chinese economic interests and possibly encourage greater cooperation on their part in the Security Council, multilateral Western sanctions against Iran, an oil embargo and even a naval blockade. Given the pace of Iranian nuclear development, however, the time for this is limited.

In 1981 Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak and in so doing did the world a great favor. It may have done so again, at a much earlier stage, in Syria. The time for effective action against Iran is rapidly approaching.