So what happened on the morning of September 6, 2007 ? Israel has instituted a news blackout beyond saying that Israeli soldiers demonstrated unusual courage in acting against Syria. Syria indicates that Israel violated its airspace and fired missals on ground targets. Iran has been absolutely quiet, very unusual for them. There has been no comment across the Middle East. Europe is quiet on the issue. Here is the dismissive reaction of U.S. President George Bush when asked the question in his general press conference on September 20, 2007: ” I’m not going to comment on the matter.”
If all these countries are quiet, if politicians won’t comment, if there are news restrictions on what should be a highly publicized current event, then there must be a pretty big worldwide story here. It also must be diplomatically sensitive. Here is what can be determined about the raid by Israel on Syria on the morning of September 6, 2007.
In late spring, Israeli intelligence (Mossad) received information that Syria was trying to buy a nuclear device from North Korea. Israel had a building in Syria under surveillance from a satellite sent into orbit last June. The building (about 50 miles from the Iraq border) was believed to be storing nuclear equipment. On September 3, 2007, a ship arrived from North Korea with a cargo that was marked as cement. The cargo was subsequently transferred to the building that Israel had under surveillance. This triggered a strike on September 6, 2007 by five Israeli warplanes on the building and possibly other targets in Syria.
The timing of this incident could not be worse for North Korea. The country is beginning the second phase of six-party talks on disabling their current nuclear program. After years of talks, a deal was brokered in February 2007 under which Pyongyang (capital city of North Korea) agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor in return for fuel and aid. North Korea admitted International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, who verified the shutdown of the Yongbyon reactor in July. In the second phase, scheduled to start next week, North Korea needs to declare all of its nuclear programs and disable its nuclear facilities. North Korea is at the bargaining table because up to two million of its people have died since the mid-1990s due to acute food shortages caused by natural disasters and the economic mismanagement of the Head Of State, Kim Jong- il. The country relies on foreign aid to feed millions of its people.
The timing could not have been better for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who has gained ten points in his favorability ratings in Israel’s latest public opinion polls. He is gaining popularity for showing strong, decisive action on the Syrian nuclear threat. He is also gaining popularity in Israel for his ongoing meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the U.S. sponsored Middle East peace conference in November.
Iran may be involved in this incident as well. Consider a report from the Nazareth-based Israeli Arab newspaper, The Assennara, which cited anonymous Israeli sources as saying that Israeli jets “bombed a Syrian-Iranian missile base in northern Syria that was financed by Iran… It appears that the base was completely destroyed.”
In recent days, Syria has begun to increase its rhetoric on Israel’s reported violation of Syrian airspace. It has warned the United Nations that the international community’s silence over the incident could have “tragic consequences.” In a letter sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Syria warns Israel that its “outrageous aggression” will have serious consequences. Also, consider this statement from Syrian International Atomic Energy Agency ambassador Ibrahim Othman, ” The fact that UN and IAEA decisions regarding Israel’s nuclear capability are not implemented increases the frustration of the Arab states and threatens to expand the arms race that could threaten the peace and security of the region and entire world.”
We know that Israel bombed targets in Syria on September 6, 2007. The targets appear to be military locations in Syria sponsored by North Korea and Iran. The fact that these three countries are working together, possibly on nuclear weapons, is indeed disturbing. The Syrian Head Of State, Bashar al-Assad, is now in the process of contemplating Syria’s response to the Israeli air strikes. Unfortunately, the world has not heard the last of the silent war of September 6, 2007 between Israel and Syria.