Sunday, October 28, 2007

Israel Bombed Assad's Secret Harem

By Cernig

Back in September, Israel bombed President Assad of Syria's secret harem complex - and he's too embarassed to say anything about it...

That's just as definite and believable an assertion as any other we've seen about whatever it was Israeli planes targeted in the Syrian desert on Sept. 6th. Take for example the recent claims from David Albright and ISIS, now getting big coverage from Judy Miller's old friends in the NY Times. While superficially more plausibe, because talk of nukes is more "serious" than talks of harems or olympic swimming pool complexes, they don't have a shred more actual evidence going for them.

The latest pics of the site identified by Albright, after he and his colleagues poured over satellite photos of Syria looking for something that could be a nuclear site, are actually the oldest. Pics from 2003 show said site already built. William Broad and Mark Mazetti take that as evidence that Syria's secret nuke program was - gasp, shock, horror - more advanced than anyone thought!

It isn't until the bottom of the article that they actually ask a real expert, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, what he thinks. Lewis observes that "it was surprising from the photos how little progress had been made at the site between 2003 and 2007."

As Emptywheel at the Next Hurrah observes, the Miller-Lites (Sanger, Broad, Mazetti) couldn't possibly conceive that "the inactivity at the site reveals ... inactivity."

On his own Arms Control Wonk blog, Dr. Lewis tramples all over the "nuke-plant" narrative, pushed by the Fourth Branch and channeled by the Miller-Lites, in great big hobnailed boots.
If you look five clicks east of the site, there is a secure facility with a large building that is about the same dimensions — 47 m x 45 m. No one, however, is suggesting that is a reactor. “Imagery intelligence,” the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction wrote, is “only one piece of the collection effort against WMD, and will have to be used in conjunction with information from other sources.”

This doesn’t mean that the Syrian facility wasn’t a reactor. It means, based on the public evidence, we don’t know what whether it was a copy of Yongbyon or Bashar al-Assad’s naked swimming pool. The only way to know is to get inside.

So, the real key is this supposed HUMINT obtained by Israel. As far as I can tell, the only indication of this is from Martha Raddatz at ABC who claimed Israel “managed to either co-opt one of the facility’s workers or to insert a spy posing as an employee. As a result, the Israelis obtained many detailed pictures of the facility from the ground.”

Frankly, I would have preferred IAEA inspectors to some disgruntled construction worker with a drinking problem.

Of course, Raddatz’s source also claimed it was a concrete cylinder, not a big box. So, I get the sense (s)he was passing along a little RUMINT.


For analytic completeness, we need images of the site between the strike and the clean-up operation.

Israel, for example, might have missed (at the very least, Syria would want to complicate any post-strike assessment) or Syria, I suppose, may even have dismantled the facility before the strike. I doubt both, very much, but I’d like the pictures, thank you.
To recap:

We don't know if Albright's site is the site the Israeli's bombed.

We don't know if the strike actually hit anything.

We don't know what the Israelis really thought their target was, purpose or location.

We don't know if the target was really what the Israelis thought it was.

And at every stage we have shreds of circumstantial evidence suggesting that the accepted narrative is untrue.

In other words, the accepted narrative is as empty of actual evidence as any WMD snark hunt in the Middle East, conceived by warmongers and driven by tame media pets, ever was.

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