September Attack on a Nuclear Reactor?

I really wish that there were new information in the New York Times report on Israel’s air attack on a Syrian facility early in September. It looks to me as though the same info continues to be chewed over and presented in different ways:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 — 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.

Some, for example Arms Control Wonk, suspect that the attack was on Scuds or Scud parts and have scoffed at the reporting of an attack on a Syrian nuclear facility. Check the interesting comments to the latter post.

Once upon a time I recall seeing our dog and a neighbor’s facing each other across our property line. The neighbor’s dog would slowly and cautiously inch his foot onto our side of the line and our dog would growl back in response, the neighbor’s dog quickly withdrawing his foot. The game could go on for hours.

Something of the sort seems to be going on between the Syrians and the Israelis. The Israelis have established a pretty clear boundary: no nukes.

There also seem to be reasons beyond the actual merits of the strike that motivated the Israelis:

A senior Israeli official, while declining to speak about the specific nature of the target, said the strike was intended to “re-establish the credibility of our deterrent power,” signaling that Israel meant to send a message to the Syrians that even the potential for a nuclear weapons program would not be permitted. But several American officials said the strike may also have been intended by Israel as a signal to Iran and its nuclear aspirations. Neither Iran nor any Arab government except for Syria has criticized the Israeli raid, suggesting that Israel is not the only country that would be disturbed by a nuclear Syria. North Korea did issue a protest.

Or, in other words, the attack was a consequence of last year’s Israel-Hezbollah war which called into question the effectiveness of Israel’s military deterrent, particularly the effectiveness of its air strikes.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Anderson says:

    Robert Farley‘s take on this is worth engaging.

    Syria, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, had the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses. We may feel skeptical about its actual intentions, but at this early stage, I don’t see how we could prove anything.

    So another “quaint” international law bites the dust, and the rule is that if the U.S. or Israel don’t want you to have nuclear power, then we’ll blow it up or invade your country.

    There’s a reason, surely, that the president is afraid to come out and admit that’s our policy.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    The only thing I think I’d disagree with in that statement, Anderson, is the implication that we have a lot more influence over Israel’s policies than we actually do.

  3. Anderson says:

    Well, “the U.S. *or* Israel.”

    I think we actually have a fair amount of control over Israel (not absolute, of course), if we choose to exercise it. This administration has not so chosen.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I think we have influence but no control.

  5. bob in fl says:

    Everything we heard today is a rehash of what was written in The Times of London weeks ago, a Rupert Murdoch paper, so I am informed. So we don’t know for sure what it was the Israeli’s bombed. Sure, I think it was connected in some way to nukes, but we don’t know a damn thing except the attack happened.

    The real story here is why is everybody acting so differently this time? I have a hunch it goes way beyond this attack. The previous week, a B 52 carried 6 nuclear armed cruise missiles to the Middle East staging area, Barksdale AFB, with the news officially leaked to The Military Times (or it may have been the Army Times). So maybe I’m spreading rumors, but it is also possible the 2 incidents are connected & a joint exercise got busted by an officer with a conscience who gave a cover story to hide the reason they were mounted & moved? Could they have been intended for Iran?

    Ya know, it really, really sucks to think some in our government are capable of such a thing.