THE ANNO DOMINI 2008: WHAT WILL IT BRING?
The state with the greatest need to take advantage of this U.S. occupation [of Iraq], bar none, is the Russian Federation. Moscow knows full well that when the Americans are finished with their efforts in the Middle East, the bulk of their attention will return to the former Soviet Union. When that happens, Russia will face a resurgent United States that commands alliances in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Russia must use the ongoing U.S. entanglement in the Middle East to redefine its immediate neighborhood or risk a developing geopolitic far less benign to Russian interests than Washington’s Cold War policy of containment. Russia needs to move — and it needs to move now.
George Friedman, President & Founder, Stratfor.Com (www.stratfor.com).
I do not really believe in crystal ball gazing or forecasting. Any more then I believe that someone can reliably predict the moves, up or down of the stock market or the American electoral cycle. The only thing that a well-educated and learned mind can do, is to make certain hypotheses, based upon a good knowledge of past events. This is something which I as a historian believe is one of the usages of a deep knowledge of history. Not that I (or anyone else for that matter) can 'predict', what is going to happen in say Moskva, Kiev, Madrid or London either today, tomorrow or the day after. What we can do is utilize our knowledge, even with all its subjectivity and limitations, and, draw certain analogies, with the past, and the present. But, any such exercise is by definition a very very limited one indeed. Because the present and the future, while very much dependent upon what has occurred in the past, especially the recent past, never quite replicates what occurred before. Whether in the Marxist sense farce as opposed to tragedy, or simply by virtue of the fact that discontinuity will by definition be as great a force as continuity in the history of any nation or people. Just as Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, was never (not even close actually) a 20th century version of Tsar Ivan Groznii, or Nikolai Pavlovich. Nor was Sovietskaya Vlast a modern-day version of Tsarist Russia, again the discontinuity is much greater than continuity.
There are however some (actually way too many) who are willing to stake a bet as to how they see events moving forward. Among the more interesting and intelligent ones is Stratfor.Com (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.). Founded by the ex-academic and sometime advisor & briefer to the Department of Defence, Joint Chiefs and other levels of the American military establishment, Dr. George Friedman, Stratfor has in recent years achieved some degree of credibility with an audience outside of the Defence Department, War / military studies nexus. Indeed, not only has his name been mentioned in the Financial Times, but, he has even been granted the privilege of penning an article or two in the New York Review of Books, the most prestigious periodical on this side of the Atlantic. I myself have been a reader of Dr. Friedman and his web site, for a good number of years now. And, I will admit that I find both to be (especially the former) to be a combination of the predictable, the formulaic, and the hair raising ne plus ultra, at times all in one. It is perhaps these rather muddled qualities which has kept me reading the good doctor for all these years now. Otherwise what can one say except that while always intelligent and 'realistic' (in a sort of debased, Realpolitik sense), a sort of vulgar Realismus. The flip side of vulgar Idealismus. Unfortunately the former has all of the same set of conceptual flaws as the latter only reversed. In this case, a consistently erroneous supposition that 'realism', as taught by American academics in the post-war period (1945-1980) is the key, indeed the only means of understanding international politics. Id est, in the case of Dr. Friedman, we are confronted with a sort of Hans J. Morgenthau pocket-size. With all the flaws that this provides us. Perhaps it is not entirely surprising that Friedman penned in 1991, a book titled: 'The Coming War with Japan'. Perhaps from a realist perspective war with Japan, indeed a 'preventative war' at that, was par for the course. Faute de mieux, it did not occur. Perhaps Dr. Friedman's then clients at DOD, were not paying attention.
I have attached for your collective perusal, an excerpt of Stratfor.Com's year 2008. As is usual, it is a mixture of sense and nonsense. In the latter category I of course put his prognosis about a a coming and or future, American 'cold war policy of containment'. Right now, per se, the United States does not have 'a' policy vis-`a-vis Matushka Roissya. What it has is an odd combination of a series of policies, none of which (Russian human rights, Georgia, Ukraine, Kosovo, Persia, North Korea, Conventional Forces in Europe, European Missile Defence, European Gas Supplies) while not tending to cancel each other out, do tend to give the appearance of incoherence. Due mostly to the fact that the Americans do not, and, have not seen the need to prioritize what is important or un-important in their relationship with Russia. Which just points to the fact that the Americans still harbor the belief that they have all or almost all of the cards to play vis-`-vis Russia, and, see no reason to engage in a policy of quid pro quo or trade-offs. This will occur, if it occurs at all, if and when the Americans see the need to do so. In short when official Washington sees that it hasto make choices, because the international situation dictates that it must. That situation has not yet arrived. As per a Friedman's supposition, of a new American policy of containment in the offing, given the fact that the Russian State-owned Gas combine, Gazprom, is buying up, as we write, now Bulgarian, now Serbian, gas pipelines and state owned energy companies, as well as further west and north, the idea is on the face of it, ludicrous. More or less twenty plus years out of date. Not to mention that none of the nations of Europe, whether 'old' or 'young', are seriously interested in resurrecting a new cordon sanitaire in Eastern Europe.
However, I do urge that you all do peruse and read Friedman's jottings and let time tell how plausible or not are his suppositions.
Annual Forecast 2008: Beyond the Jihadist War, January 8, 2008
By George Friedman
"Editor’s Note: This week’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report is the introduction to Stratfor’s Annual Forecast for 2008. Following the introduction are links to each regional section of the 35-page forecast. We’ve also created a report card of our 2007 forecasts highlighting where we were right and where we were wrong.
There are three major global processes under way that will continue to work themselves out in 2008. First, the U.S.-jihadist war is entering its final phase; the destruction of al Qaeda’s strategic capabilities now allows the United States to shift its posture — which includes leveraging the Sunni world to finish the job begun in Iraq — and enables Washington to begin drawing down its Middle Eastern forces. Second, an assertive Russia is re-emerging and taking advantage of the imbalance in U.S. power resulting from the war. Third, oil at historical highs and continued Asian — particularly Chinese — exports have created a massive redistribution of financial might that is reshaping the international financial architecture. These processes intersect with each other, as well as with a fourth phenomenon: It is a presidential election year in the United States, which remains the center of gravity of the international system. These are the trends that shape our global forecast....
Such energy is not simply a result of this odd hiccup in the American political system but of a major shift in circumstance on the issue that has monopolized American foreign policy efforts since 2003: Iraq. The Iraq war was an outgrowth of the jihadist war. After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the United States realized it lacked the military wherewithal to simultaneously deal with the four powers that made al Qaeda possible: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. The first phase of the Bush solution was to procure an anchor against Afghanistan by forcing Pakistan into an alliance. The second was to invade the state that bordered the other three — Iraq — in order to intimidate the remaining trio into cooperating against al Qaeda. The final stage was to press both wars until al Qaeda — the core organization that launched the 9/11 attack and sought the creation of a pan-Islamic caliphate, not the myriad local extremists who later adopted its name — broke....
This leaves Iran, the region’s only non-Sunni power, in the uncomfortable position of needing to seek an arrangement with the United States. The year 2008 will still be about Iraq — but in a different way. Iran cares deeply about the final status of Iraq, since every united Mesopotamian government has at some point in its history attempted a Persian invasion. Yet for the United States, the details of intra-Iraqi negotiations and security in Iraqi cities now are irrelevant to its geopolitical concerns. Washington does not care what Iraq looks like, so long as the Sunni jihadists or Tehran do not attain ultimate control — and evolutions in 2007 have made both scenarios impossible in 2008.
Iran recognizes this, and as a result Washington and Tehran are ever less tentatively edging toward a deal. It is in this context — as an element of talks with Iran — that Iraq still matters to Washington, and this is now the primary rationale for continued involvement in Iraq. The United States will not completely withdraw from Iraq in 2008 — indeed, it likely will have 100,000 troops on the ground when Bush leaves office — but this will be the year in which the mission evolves from tactical overwatch to strategic overwatch. (Roughly translated from military lingo, this means shifting from patrolling the cities in order to enforce the peace to hunkering in the desert in order to ensure that Iran does not try to seize Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula beyond.)
In the aftermath of the November 2007 Annapolis, Md., conference and the declassification of a National Intelligence Estimate on the nonexistence of the Iranian nuclear program, the ball is in the Iranians’ court. A U.S.-Iranian deal — no matter how beneficial it would be for both states — is not inevitable. But Stratfor finds it unlikely that Tehran would choose strategic confrontation with both the United States and the Arab world when the benefits of cooperation — and the penalties for hostility — are so potent. A framework for future relations, as well as for co-dominion of Iraq, is likely to emerge in 2008.
Still, frameworks come slowly, and crafting such a framework will require the bulk of American forces currently in Iraq to remain there for most of the year. The United States will draw forces down and eventually regain its bandwidth for other operations, but 2008 will not be the year that the United States returns to policing the world on a global scale. And considering the still-mounting costs of regenerating military capabilities after six years of conflict, manpower expansion and acquisitions, such force recovery might not even occur in 2009. The United States could have more energy and political freedom to act, but military realities will anchor the lion’s share of Washington’s attention on the Middle East for — at the very least — the year to come. And Afghanistan, and therefore Pakistan, will have to be dealt with, regardless of what happens in Iraq.
This means 2008 will be similar to 2007 in many ways: It will be a year of opportunity for those powers that would take advantage of the United States’ ongoing distraction. However, they will face a complication that was absent in 2007: a deadline. The Iraqi logjam is broken. Unlike in 2007, when Iraq appeared to be a quagmire and other powers therefore sensed endless opportunity, those hostile to U.S. interests realize that they only have a limited window in which to reshape their regions. Granted, this window will not close in 2008, since the United States will need to not only withdraw from Iraq but also rest and restructure its forces; but the United States no longer is mired in an open-ended conflict.
The state with the greatest need to take advantage of this U.S. occupation, bar none, is the Russian Federation. Moscow knows full well that when the Americans are finished with their efforts in the Middle East, the bulk of their attention will return to the former Soviet Union. When that happens, Russia will face a resurgent United States that commands alliances in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Russia must use the ongoing U.S. entanglement in the Middle East to redefine its immediate neighborhood or risk a developing geopolitic far less benign to Russian interests than Washington’s Cold War policy of containment. Russia needs to move — and it needs to move now.
And there are a host of secondary powers that will be interacting within the matrix of American actions in 2008. Some — such as Syria and Saudi Arabia — want to be included in the U.S. Iraqi calculus and will have their chance. Others — namely South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and Japan — are looking for new ways to work with Washington as they adapt to their own domestic government transitions. All of Europe is shifting back to a power structure that has been absent for two generations: the concert of powers, with all of the instability and mistrust that implies.
Others will be pursuing bold agendas, not because of the United States’ distraction but because they are rising to prominence in their own right. Angola will rise as a major African power to rival South Africa and Nigeria. Brazil will lay the groundwork for reasserting its long-dormant role as a South American superpower. Turkey — now the strongest it has been in a century — will re-emerge as a major geopolitical weight in the eastern Mediterranean, albeit one that is somewhat confused about its priorities....
This will be a year in which the United States achieves more success in its foreign policies than it has since the ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan in late 2001. But the actions of others — most notably a rising Russia — rather than U.S. achievements will determine the tenor and fury of the next major global clash".
© Copyright 2007 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.
PEACE MAKING POST-ANNAPOLIS: THE VIEW FROM DAMASCUS
As readers of this journal may recall, to our surprise the Bush Administration's peace discussions in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007, were not the disaster, or even per se the damp squib, which many (including myself) had predicted beforehand. Most of the invited leaders of the various Arab regimes, including Syria came. In the case of the latter, after a combination of heavy lobbying and pressure from Saudi Arabia. At the time, it was thought possible, just possible, that a way forward may have been found in terms of peacemaking in the region. Unfortunately, such has proven not to be the case. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the two parties, have carried on fragmented and not very conclusive discussions. Which so far have yielded virtually...nothing. Except perhaps the occasional photo opportunity for visiting American dignitaries, like Secretary of State Rice or President Bush. Otherwise, it is very much a case of going nowhere fast. The missing link, the element which will provide movement forward here is: American pressure on the two parties, in particular of course on Tel Aviv, to make concessions, and push forward on final status talks, or at the very least, indicate verbally & publicly what the outlines of such a settlement might very well be. Hence, even if (as might well be the case) the PA President, Abbas, is not able to immediately respond favorably, the groundwork will have been laid down for an eventual settlement. By definition such a settlement being along the lines of the Taba Summit of late 2000-early 2001.
In the case of Syria however, even the charade of nominal activity, of peace discussions, are not to be seen. Instead the regime in Damascus, having been invited to come to the Annapolis Conference, and, allowed to make their plea for peace discussions to settle the Golan Heights issue with Israel, has been rewarded for breaking its united front, with its ally in Teheran, with absolutely rien, nothing, zero. Of course, this was even all the more predictable. More so than the treatment of the Palestinians in the aftermath of the Conference. Why so? The pur et simple reason being that the American Administration, even more so than their Israeli ally is still fundamentally hostile to the regime in Syria. Notwithstanding the fact that peace feelers are occasionally put out by the more pragmatic elements of the Israeli political and military establishment, the Bush regime itself views Assad fils, and his clique, tutte quanti, as being only fit to be overthrown. The fact that it is probably the case that: a) the current regime in Syria is much more preferable than any successor regime in sight (Sunni fundamentalist of the Moslem Brotherhood variety at best) is completely ignored or brushed aside by our Near Eastern specialists in Washington DC. Elliott Abrams, et. al; b) as currently configured, the Assad regime on a whole host of criterion: treatment of women and religious minorities, political pluralism, civil society, is in fact the equal to, if not better than such solid American allies as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, and even some (but not all) of the Gulf States. Again, the Near Eastern 'specialists' in the Bush Regime are quite careful to ignore all this of course. Which is not to gainsay the fact that on several grounds, the Assad Regime is hardly the most lovably or pro-Western. In the case of its policies in the Lebanon, its ties with Persia, its ties with the rejectionist elements of Hamas, as well as its recently foiled attempt to commence, possibly building a nuclear reactor, Damascus has much to be condemned for. Much less its human rights and lack of political pluralism. None of that can either be denied or gainsaid. None the less, the fact of the matter is that the regime in Damascus can and should be talked to, negotiated with and entertained not with threats (which in the current international environment of relative American decline are quite toothless) or illusory attempts at coercion. The time when it was possible to hope that the Assad Regime was ripe for the overthrow, circa 2003-2005 is of course completely past. Very unlikely to be resurrected in the very near future. From all appearances Assad Fils, is very much in the saddle at present and there are no signs that this situation will change anytime soon. A fundamental truth, which the United States, like some formerly hostile countries such as Turkey, should commence coming round to facing up to.
For a better view of how the Assad Regime sees things diplomatically at present, post-Annapolis, I refer you to the following, interview by the writer and journalist, Helena Cobban, with the Syrian Foreign Ministry's Director of Foreign Media Department. I have in the past viewed Miss Cobban as being somewhat one-sided in her view on the region, and excessively anti-American and anti-Western (see her web site: www.justworldnews.org)to boot. However one cannot deny her resourcefulness as a journalist and her own thoughtfulness as a commentator. Besides the fact that not everyone can get a B.A. & M.A. at Oxford!
In substance the interview clearly shows that the regime in Damascus is open to both pushing forward with talks about the Golan and is willing to ditch its Persian allies, if offered enough for doing so by the Americans, Israelis and Saudis. What Assad et. al., is not willing to do is to detach itself from its ally in Teheran, without some hard quid pro quo from all three of the former powers. One can hardly blame him of course for that. For the rest of it, it seems clear enough that Damascus expects nothing from either the UN, the EU or even Moskva as countervailing forces vis-`a-vis the USA. Again, understandably so. And, of course the comments about the recent Israeli air raid are a monument to obfuscation. But that again is rather par for the course. That being said, I urge you to read the full text of the interview which now follows (for a summary of the interview please go to Joshua Landis' www.Syriacomment.com
Interview with Ms. Bushra Kanafani, Director of the Foreign Media Department at the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Conducted for Just World News by Helena Cobban, Jan. 15, 2008.
Q: I'd like to ask your views about the recent Annapolis conference. What persuaded Syria to take part, and how do you view the outcome?
A: The question of Golan is a national priority for us as Syrians-- the people and the government. It is wrong for any international conference on the Arab-Israeli issue to ignore Golan. Golan needs to be on the agenda. That was why we went. We agreed that the Palestinian question could have priority. But at least Golan should be on the agenda, even if it is not given equal prominence.
Right now, we are not sure about the status of the Syrian-Israeli track in the negotiations. We still see no sign of willingness from Israel or the United States-- at this point-- to resume the Syrian track of negotiations.
Q: How about the position of the other members of the 'Quartet'?
A: The Russians have talked about holding a follow-on international conference in Moscow, but they have announced no decision yet-- perhaps because there are still so many difficulties.
The US administration is stressing the Palestinian track for their own internal reasons.
If there is a Moscow conference, its content is still unknown. So far we have no reason to think there will be such a conference. If there is one, we would go-- for the same reason we went to Annapolis: to make sure that the Golan question is on the agenda.
Q: Do you have any reason for new hope regarding achievements on the Palestinian track since Annapolis?
A: Unfortunately not. There is nothing to indicate that there is any hope...
Actually, as we see it, the priority for Palestinians is not in these peace talks but to make a reconciliation among the Palestinians themselves. There will be, as you know, a conference of Palestinians next week in Damascus and its aim is to rebuild Palestinian national unity. Everyone has been invited. Mr. Abbas has been invited.
Q: Is this an attempt to return to the Mecca agreement among the Palestinian movements that the Saudis were able to mediate last February and to heal the inter-Palestinian rifts caused by the events in Gaza last June?
A: You know, we all worked for the Mecca Agreement. We don't want to say exactly who was responsible for breaking the Palestinian national unity that was achieved there, because we always keep the same distance between the different sides in internal Palestinian disputes. Actually, regarding the Mecca Agreement, the Palestinian representatives started the talks here in Damascus but then moved to Mecca because Riyadh [that is, the Saudi government] could be better at marketing the agreement reached. But the situation in Gaza after the conclusion of the agreement was not healthy at all, and that led to some bad developments...
Q: How are your relations with Saudi Arabia these days?
A: There are differences between us. The Saudis put emphasis on the question of Lebanon and express concern about our relationship with Iran-- though they also have their own relationships with Iran, too.
Regarding Lebanon, after the Riyadh Summit conference of late March last year, which we went to, we suggested to the Saudis that we work together on the Lebanon issue. We wanted each side to use its influence with its repsective allies there to resolve the political problems. But the way it turned out, the Saudis wanted us to use our influence but we did not see so much the same from them.
Q: And how are your relations with Iran. Were there some problems with Tehran after you decided to go to Annapolis?
A: We have had good relations with Iran since the revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini. These are mainly because of our strategic view of the region. Iran has been a friend to us since the days of Khomeini, and iut is an important regional power-- as Turkey is, too.
We appreciate the Iranians' stand, even though we don't agree with them about everything. We don't agree with President Ahmadinejad's statement about Israel. We declared many years ago that peace with Israel is our strategic choice; and it still is.
Q: Was there a big problem with them when you decided to go to Annapolis?
A: They didn't like it, and they said so. But we do what we think is right for us. In the diplomacy of the 1990s, for example, we had our talks with Israel for ten years. Those talks didn't in the end achieve anything. But our relations with Tehran remained fine throughout.
Q: What is the main thing you want from the US Government?
A: We want them not to be a 'closed-eyes' ally of Israel. We can';t change the fact of the alliance. But at least it should be an 'open-eyes' alliance that also recognizes the realities of this region.
In the negotiations of the 1990s we expected a US role as a neutral negotiator, but we didn't get it.
Q: How do you hope to persuade the Americans to change their approach?
A: Through dialogue. Through talking. This is the duty of the US administration and people, if they want to continue to pursue their interests in the long run. Dialogue and talks are the only way. We would certainly like them to return their ambassador here, to discuss all the many issues of shared concern between us-- but not for them to pick and choose which issues they want to discuss, as they currently try to do.
You know we have a joint committee with the Iraqi government on border security, and the US asked to participate in it. We said, No. Because we need to discuss Iraq as well as the peace process and Lebanon with them. In Lebanon, we see them as fostering a 'winner-takes-all' mentality which is very harmful.
We have seen no sign of any improvement in bilateral relations since Annapolis.
Q: How do you see the prospects for Lebanon?
A: We hope Amr Moussa's mission can succeed. We see some Arabs trying to change the Arab Plan that Moussa has produced, but in our view the whole Arab Plan should be a package deal.
You know, the US also has its friends in Lebanon, in the government and the March 14th movement. It should try to influence them to accept the Arab Plan. Until now we didn't hear any word of support or encouragement from the Americans for the Arab Plan. From our side, though, we have been calling on all Lebanese and Arabs who care like us about Lebanon to support Amr Moussa's initiative.
This problem in Lebanon needs to be resolved, because the longer the constitutional crisis continues, the greater the danger of a crisis erupting.
Q: What is your view of the suggestion from the Iraqi Defense Minister, as reported in today's New York Times, that the US should keep its bases in Iraq until 2018?
A: We are against all this! The US invaded Iraq illegitimately, against the wishes of the international community. Then, to add insult to injury, they brought Iraq into chaos, and they brought Al-Qaeda into Iraq where it had not previously existed. And of course they also found no WMDs. But what they brought into Iraq was what you might call a "bloody democracy."
What is best for America, Iraq, and the whole region is to have a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq parallel to the process of rebuilding the Iraqi forces.
To have American bases there over the long term: this is a recipe for more violence.
Q: How do you view the legitimacy of the present Iraqi government?
A: Firstly, we note that this present government was the result of elections. The democracy was "bloody", but still, there were elections. That made it different from preceding governments in Iraq, because there had been a real political process there.
And secondly, we have mutual interests and concerns that we need to work on with this government. There is security: we have many important security interests in common with them, not least because at one point we were being accused of allowing terrorists to travel to travel into Iraq. But now through our joint work with them we have done a lot to address that problem.
And there are so many other common interests! Water, for example. Last week we had a three-party meeting here in Damascus between us and Iraq and Turkey to discuss water issues on the Tigris and Euphrates. And there are other trade and economic issues.
Q: How are your relations with Turkey? I have heard that the Israelis are uneasy about them.
A: The Israelis want the Arabs to have bad relations with everybody! Turkey is a neighboring country, and it does a good job, including as a channel between us and Israel. The Israelis should value that.
Q: What can you tell me about the incident last september when Israeli planes attacked a site in northern Syria? If the site was as innocent as Syria claimed, why didn't you organize delegations of diplomats and journalists to go and tour it?
A: The whole affair is very mysterious and there is still a lot we don't know about it. The Israeli media announced the attaack -- not the government. And then our defense ministry confirmed publicly that there had been an attack. The Israeli government still said nothing.
The Israeli press gave various different accounts of what the target had been, and settled on the idea it had been a nuclear-related site, involving the North Koreans.
I should note, though, that we did show photos of the damage suffered to diplomats and press people. The Israeli missiles hit an empty area. We showed pictures of the Israeli missiles that had fallen. Then people elsewhere showed pictures of a building that they claimed had been destroyed by Israel. But who knows where that building was?
Maybe they made a mistake? People should ask the Israelis why they did it. So far they have kept silent about what it was all about.
Q: How do you see the prospects for the months ahead, which will include the US election campaign?
A: I can't link it to the election campaign, but the American administration has kept the tension high in the region for years. Now, President Bush is trying to persuade the Gulf Arabs to confront Iran, and he is asking the Saudis to help with his peace process. But it is not easy for the Saudis or any Arabs to support the plan when it ignores half of the Palestinians!
Bush wants to present himsel;f as a peacemaker. But the pressures he is trying to exert on people don't lead to any hope of success.
Q: How can we reinstate the role of the UN in the peace process?
A: The Madrid conference did not give the UN a good role. The sponsorship there was from the US and the Soviets. So we should take a lesson from that. When we were at the "Madrid + 15" conference in Madrid in October, many participants there believed the UN should play a bigger role.
Our view is that you can't have a peace process without an American role, because of the strength of the US-Israeli relationship. But you also need to have a good influencing role for the UN. Also, the Europeans should play a bigger role: one that involves not just giving money, but also, a political role. Even while keeping a special role for the Americans". www.justworldnews.org
A NUCLEAR THREAT IN SYRIA? A LOOK
As the world now knows, there was a mysterious, never quite explained, Israeli air raid on a Syrian site in early September, in the northern part of the country, near the border with Turkey. According to the unconfirmed, rumor-mill emanating mostly from Tel Aviv and to a lesser extent, Washington, DC., the purpose of the air raid was the destruction of a potential Syrian, nuclear reactor in the offing. As per these commentators, the Syrian facility, was using North Korean prototypes of the latter Yongbyon nuclear facility, parts of which have been offered for sale, sub rosa, on the international market by Pyongyang. Allegedly, imported from Persian or Pakistani intermediaries. While the regime in Damascus adamantly denied any such program, it was singularly odd, that such an overt Israli attack, would engender such a feeble Syrian response. Both diplomatically and otherwise. Which has lead some more intelligent observers to argue that there was indeed some skulduggery on Damascus'part in the affair. Others such as the widely followed, observer and commentator on all things, Syrian, Professor Joshua Landis, argue that there is scant evidence which has emerged so far, to confirm the argument that the bombed site was in fact (regardless of whether or not Tel Aviv thought to the contrary), a Syrian nuclear reactor in embryo (see: www.syriancomment.com
). As it so happens, today it emerged that during his trip to Israel last week, President Bush, commended his hosts for the air strike, stating (as per anonymous sources) that it was a "important preventative action". Whether 'important' or not, at the very least it had less negative after affects than the his own 'preventative action', aka the invasion of Iraq in 2003...(see:www.jta.org
for the leaked story).
Regardless however of this, where do I think that the truth lie in this matter? Well, once one has tabulated all the pertinent evidence, it would appear that there was to some extent, the exact degree which is unknown, and, will perhaps forever remain unknown, some type of nuclear, or proto-nuclear facility on the site. Based upon the non-existent radioactive fallout, it is more likelier than not, that the facility was in the very earliest stages of construction. Which might also explain the fact that it had virtually none of the usual signs which would show an important plant either in operation: no attempts at camouflage, underground bunkers, or even any barbed wire fencing, protecting the perimeter of the installation. In short, what appears to have been bombed was one square shaped building, 47 meters by 47 meters, with a flat roof. However in a new report which appears to confirm the likelihood of a possible secret Syrian facility, of some type at the location, the American-based, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), has just reported that digital, satellite imagery, recently obtained, shows that a new, larger, building, with a vaulted, rather than a flat roof, has been constructed on the previously bombed site. In addition, as previously, there appears to been piping between the facility and what may be a water treatment plant located a few kilometers away. As ISIS's reports notes, Syrian claims that there is no basis for any presumption of any nuclear or other facility at the site, are undermined by the fact, that the regime in Damascus has so far refused, the Egyptian head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nobel Laureate (and leading Bush regime skeptic) Mohamed El-Baradei permission to inspect the site. Given El-Baradei's prior un-friendly attitude towards Bush regime's claims of weapons of mass destruction in both Iraq and more recently Persia, Syria had everything to gain, and, nothing to lose, by inviting the IAEA in. The failure to do so speaks volumes. At least it does for me. However judge for yourself: read the attached summary of the report from ISIS, and, go to its web site (www.isis-online.org
) , for the full report with the wonderful satellite images. And, to conclude all one can say is that Damascus, by refusing at the very least, to co-operate with IAEA, lends full credence, to the hypothesis raised by the Assad's regime's critics in Israel and the USA, that it was in fact in the earliest stages of developing some type of nuclear facility, along the Yongbyon lines. Which if true, it would appear, the world owes the state of Israel, a debt of gratitude for stopping the program in its tracks. One only hopes that the regime in Damascus will take in the lesson learned and, not make another attempt to 'go nuclear'. Which based upon the newest report, one is not entirely sure of at this time.
THE INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY NEW CONSTRUCTION AT SYRIAN SITE JANUARY 14, 2008.
"ISIS identified the likely target site of the Israeli raid in an October 24, 2007 report. The destroyed building was widely reported to be a nuclear reactor under construction. The new building has dimensions of approximately 60 meters by 60 meters, larger than the destroyed building, which had dimensions of about 47 meters by 47 meters. In addition, the roof on the new building is vaulted at the top instead of flat. The height of the new building was not determined from the imagery. The building's purpose can also not be discerned from the satellite imagery. There are trenches and what appear to be sections of pipe east of the building (running away from the river). The trenches and pipes can be seen in the imagery for several kilometers. The trenches end at a site that may be a water treatment facility. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has sought permission from Syria to inspect the site, but so far Syria has denied the IAEA access. If Syria allows the IAEA to inspect the site, the inspectors will have a more difficult time looking for evidence of reactor construction, because the new building covers whatever was left of the original building". www.isis-online.org