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Since Kevin Drum is only a year away from being buried under AARP junk mail at 49, I thought I’d help him out with the puzzle of what happened in Syria.

The Washington Post tells us what the VSP are saying: Syrians Disassembling Ruins at Site Bombed by Israel, Officials Say

Syria has begun dismantling the remains of a site Israel bombed Sept. 6 in what may be an attempt to prevent the location from coming under international scrutiny, said U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the aftermath of the attack.

Or they could just be cleaning up after the mess that the Israelis made. The thing is the site was under construction, and since contractors never follow the plans anyway, we don’t know what was being built with any certainty. Thick concrete walls could be for a nuclear plant, or an ammo dump, or to support the dome of a mosque.

Someone who has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treat, like, say, the United States, has an obligation to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency if they suspect that another signatory, like, say, Syria, is involved in building a secret nuclear facility. But then all that happens would be inspections of the site by a neutral outside party to determine the truth. Of course, since Israel refuses to sign the NPT and developed its nuclear weapons in secret, they have no such obligation, and can continue with their normal foreign policy of blowing things up while demanding other people recognize them and renounce violence.

Based on the news reports the IAEA are going to do a preliminary investigation on their own: U.N. Eyes Pics Of Possible Syria Nuke Site

(AP) U.N. experts have begun analyzing satellite imagery of the Syrian site struck last month by Israeli warplanes, diplomats said Friday, disclosing what amounts to the first independent look at reports that Damascus was hiding a nuclear facility.

It was unclear where the material was obtained or what exactly it showed. One of the diplomats who is linked to the International Atomic Energy Agency – the U.N. nuclear watchdog examining the photos – said IAEA experts were looking at commercial images, discounting suggestions from other quarters that they had come from U.S. intelligence.

Separately, a senior diplomat familiar with the issue indicated that agency experts were looking at several possible locations for the Israeli strike. Two other diplomats said initial perusal of the material had found no evidence that the target hit Sept. 6 was a nuclear installation. They emphasized, however, that it was too early to draw definite conclusions.

Of course it would be easier if they had a formal complaint that would enable them to see things on the ground under the provisions of the treaty, but they do what they can. It is a little odd that all of the unnamed sources are saying it was definitely nuclear but no one will report the “crime”. It might lead people to assume the whole thing is American agitprop.


1 hipparchia { 10.21.07 at 2:17 am }
2 Badtux { 10.21.07 at 11:02 am }

I, too, think it was a dry run for a strike on Iran. As for the notion that it would be a strike with tactical nukes… (shudder). The right-wingers in Israel are terrified and thrashing around in death throes because their favorite apartheid welfare state is falling apart due to foolhardy economic policies (their welfare policies, their decision to intern half their workforce in giant concentration camps called “Gaza” and “West Bank” and thereby starve their industries of labor, etc.) and simple demographics (much of the Jewish population sees the writing on the wall and is migrating to other nations as fast as they can get visas, while the Arab population just keeps breeding). I hope they’re not *that* intent on going out with a bang, but you never know. If Iran is attacked by Israeli nukes, that’s the end of Musharraf’s regime in Pakistan, and Tel Aviv goes up in a mushroom cloud within six months. And if the United States intervenes in all this… well, as Scott Ritter (who has been right about far, far too much) says, it’ll turn to nukes anyhow, at which point, pick a city. I just hope they blow up Houston, the source of altogether too much that is evil, rather than New York City or San Francisco, which did not want any of this to happen but was powerless to stop it short of seceding from the United States.

3 Bryan { 10.21.07 at 11:25 am }

My guess is that they were checking on the capabilities of the new antiaircraft defense systems, but it is unclear if those systems were up or not. If they were up, the Russians need to get back to the labs because their clients aren’t going to be happy about the results.

An attack on Iran pretty much guarantees chaos, because they will launch the rockets, no matter if the US or Israel flies the aircraft, and that is the end of oil production for a very long time.

It would be nice to think that adults would intervene, but I don’t think there are enough adults left in a position to do anything.

Musharraf is gone anyway because he has to act against the Taliban and al Qaeda or be wiped out by them, and the tribes will revolt if he does. He doesn’t have any good options left.

4 Badtux { 10.21.07 at 8:37 pm }

The new air defenses, as with 90% of Syria’s defenses, would be located around Damascas, which has 2/3rds of Syria’s population and is 50 miles from the Israeli border. Apparently they did “paint” the Israeli aircraft, since the Israelis did drop their tanks to clean themselves for combat, but of course this does point out the problem with stationary point defenses — they are, well, stationary. That’s the advantage of having fighters on CAP, they can go to where they are needed, but of course Syria doesn’t have the money to keep fighter jets in the air, or, really, keep them operational at all. Syria on paper has a decent air force, but a paper air force really isn’t very useful, most of their jets are old obsolete MiG varieties they can’t get parts for anymore due to the collapse of the Soviet Union (Mikoyan was hit even harder than Sukhoi because more of their parts suppliers were in the Ukraine, which is quite difficult for Russian manufacturers to work with).

Add in the fact that Syria really does NOT want to shoot down Israeli aircraft. Shooting down Israeli aircraft might mean that Israel attacks Syria, and unlike Lebanon, Syria doesn’t have a gopher-like Hizballah dug in and ready to fight like demons, instead they have a bunch of demoralized draftees armed with old Soviet-era small arms, a bunch of inoperative Soviet-era tanks (useful only as targets), and a capital city that’s an hour’s drive from the Israeli border over fairly flat terrain perfect for Israel’s blitzkrieg tactics. One reason why Israel won’t give up the Golan Heights is because this turns them into a flaming sword hanging over the head of Syria with no natural barriers between them and Damascus. Back when Syria had Soviet backing they might have felt brave enough to shoot at Israeli jets, but now that they’re stuck with nothing but Iranian backing, which is of much less value than having a superpower behind them, the last thing they want to do is provide Israel with an excuse to attack them.

So, anyhow, if this was a test of Syrian air defenses, it isn’t necessarily true that the Russian gear failed. It may be that the Russian gear worked just fine, just was in the wrong place to deal with this incursion or lacked anybody with the will to actually pull the trigger if it was in the right place.

5 Bryan { 10.21.07 at 9:34 pm }

Even when they had an air force, they were no match for the IAF and knew it, so they didn’t try very hard to engage when they could. Ground-based air defense is their best option, but like you say, someone has to be ready to fire, and not just watch.

Of course, if their equipment is working they can alert Iran, and Iran may launch before the aircraft enter their airspace. Lots of “true believers” and “fight-to-the-death” types in the Revolutionary Guard.

I noticed that Syria is backing Turkey on the PKK problem, which generates some good will for them in Ankara. The Syrians have a large Kurdish population and don’t need any more problems, like an independent Kurdistan on their border.

The whole area is a mess, and things “going boom” certainly don’t help. The eye doctor doesn’t have the lock on Syria that his dad did, and he could be replaced if he makes the wrong move.

Many more reasons to get the hell out of Iraq and let things calm down.