Friday, September 21, 2007

The Syrian Convergence

By Cernig

The meme that a recent Israeli strike on a target in the Syrian desert was aimed at some kind of nuclear facility is being pushed hard by the usual suspects of the neocon noise machine - despite there being exactly zero real substance behind such a claim.

Today, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis writes that the smart money is on the strike being aimed at a shipment of North Korean missiles and missile parts. He points out that accepting weapons imports from North Korea is illegal by UNSC 1718 (October 2006) - but that pre-emptive strikes are not authorized by that resolution. In any case, every analyst without a war-axe to grind thinks Syria has no nuclear weapons program.
It does have an advanced chemical weapons program, but is hardly alone in the region in that regard.

So if the Israeli strike was simply on a stock of missiles and parts, which might have been intended for Syria's chemical weapons program but may have been entirely conventional - why strike now and why create a scary story about nukes?

Well, as the various neocon outlets never tire of telling us, Israeli hardliners and the Cheneyites in the US are determined to have a war with Iran, Syria or both before Bush's term ends - and this smoke and mirrors warhype plays well to their aims.

The Jerusalem Post (a Murdoch newspaper) article I linked above claims, ominously:
diplomatic circles are talking about a deal that Bush and Olmert are busy crafting: In exchange for the US taking care of Iran for Israel, Israel delivers on the Palestinian issue.
Another JP article today suggests taking care of the Palestine problem would involve "a proposal that calls for a 'complete disengagement' from the Gaza Strip - involving the closure of all border crossings with Israel and the transfer of all responsibility over the Palestinian territory to Egypt."

But there's a second reason the hardliners of Israel wanted Syrian in the nuclear spotlight this week of all weeks, which may well have influenced the timing of the recent airstrike.

Much to the faux-horror of the War party's mouthpieces, Syria this week became co-chair of the IAEA's General Conference - the third and least powerful of the steering committees for the UN nuclear watchdog. For IAEA watchers, it was a move that had been known about for months and was an entirely routine rotation of the co-chairmanship. Likewise, what Syria did next had been well telegraphed in advance - it helped Egypt table a motion on a nuke-free Middle East.
Arab and other Islamic nations, targeting Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal, pushed through a U.N. atomic watchdog resolution on Thursday calling on all Middle East nations to renounce atomic weapons.

The unusual vote was 53-2 but with 47 abstentions by Western and developing states, highlighting reservations that the move politicised the International Atomic Energy Agency's work.

The decision was non-binding but symbolised tensions over Israel's presumed nuclear might and shunning of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and it frayed the traditional consensus culture of the Vienna-based IAEA.

Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied it.

A similar resolution urging all Middle East nations to adopt IAEA safeguards on nuclear work passed overwhelmingly at last year's IAEA general assembly, with only Israel and top ally the United States opposed, as they were again on Thursday.

Egypt reintroduced the resolution this year seeking full consensus but attached two new clauses that prompted Israel to demand a vote and European, other Western and non-aligned developing nations to abstain.

One clause urged all nations in the Middle East, pending creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) there, not to make or test nuclear arms or let them be deployed on their soil. The other urged big nuclear arms powers not to foil such a step.
Funny how the issue wasn't being politicized last year, but complaints are made this year because the new resolution actually calls for action instead of just words, eh?

It is easy to forget, amid all the recent hype, that Israel is the Mid-East's only nuclear power - and became so outside the NPT and without allowing international inspections of any kind at all. The recent hype is, in part, designed to help us forget that single fact. Israel has always intended that it should remain the regions only holder of nukes, something that means it can punch beyond its weight both diplomatically and militarily. It seems clear that the recent strike into Syria was partly designed to create a scary scenario out of thin air in anticipation of the IAEA's resolution and by creating false impressions of Syrian nukes it has seriously weakened the Arab hand at the IAEA.

In short, then, a nice convergence of an Israeli wish for a smoke and mirrors misdirection and a neocon wish to demonize the remaining "Axis of Evil" members in search of further war means the message machine was rolled out to push the "nuke" meme. It was an oportunity to strike two birds with one stone and it has worked very well indeed.

Update Whaddaya know - Haaretz, "For first time, Iran directly confronts Israel on alleged nuclear arms."
Israel accused Iran of lying, while Tehran challenged the international community to send inspectors to probe of its arch-rival's nuclear capabilities, in an unusually bitter and rare direct confrontation on Friday.

United Nations officials at a 148-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said they had no memory of the two rival nations ever engaging each other directly at previous meetings, and noted that development - and the unusually harsh tone of their statements - in part reflected Middle East tensions.
Hey, look over there - Syrian nukes!

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