Aurora Borealis (ionization of the upper atmosphere)(While I have been trying to find a resolution to MI’s DNC delegation in the last few days, the Admin put on their nukes in Syria dog and pony show. Partly because I didn’t have the time to do the Syria presentation justice, and partly because Professor Foland–whom you know from his great comments–has a lot more expertise on this area than I, I asked him to do a post assessing the presentation. Thanks for the really informative post, Prof! -ew)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of this Administration, it’s that if Dana Perino one day announces that the sky is blue, I will be forced to assume that an alien invasion has commenced with the total ionization of Earth’s upper atmosphere.

With that in mind, there’s an awful lot of cognitive dissonance for me in analyzing the evidence on the raid (apparently named "Operation Orchard" by the Israelis) on a Syrian desert site (apparently named "Al-Kibar"). Having started my own blog motivated by "the incredible amount of lies & hyperbole on the Iran situation of early 2006", I don’t find it easy to accept anything this Administration puts forth as evidence. I’m having all this difficulty because the pictures they showed last Thursday are clearly pictures of a nuclear reactor.

In what follows, I will lay out the history of what we’ve known about Operation Orchard and al-Kibar, what the latest photographs show, and what questions we should probably be asking.

A little bit about what I know. My training is in the experimental science of particle and nuclear physics; post-moniker-choice I left academia for more recent experience in applied device engineering in the field. This means I am not a detailed expert on the engineering design of nuclear reactors or weapons, but I do have basic familiarity with the field. I’m not an image analyst, so I’m not going to comment very much on whether the shadows in the pictures all line up the way they should. (Of course, if something very technically wrong appeared in the pictures, I’d certainly be posting "zOMG those aren’t dilithium crystals!".)

It should also be said that any sort of technical look at the images and videos presupposes that the images are what they are purported to be–taken on the ground at the site in Syria. I’ll return to the question towards the end; but in the meantime, for the sake of argument the provenance is granted.

Finally, I’m trying to be careful to distinguish evidence that is conclusive from evidence or reasoning that is suggestive or even powerful. I do have an opinion on whether this was part of a weapons program; but I don’t feel my opinion was compelled by the available evidence.

What We Knew Before Thursday

  1. Israeli jets flew over Syria on Sept. 6 ("Operation Orchard")
  2. Syria lodged no particularly strong protests
  3. No radioactivity was released as a result of the overflight (I could find no news stories to this effect–but that’s precisely the point. Within a few hours of Chernobyl, radioactivity readings were going nuts in Europe.)
  4. There was a 47 meter x 47 meter x 24 meter structure ("Box on the Euphrates") erected a few hundred meters from the Euphrates River at 35d42m28s(N), 39d49m59s(E).
  5. This structure was destroyed between August and October
  6. A new building, 60 meters x60 meters x 15 meters was erected on top of the old site between October and January
  7. An apparent water-treatment facility 5 km to the northeast was built prior to August, and connected by pipe to the rebuilt site after October
  8. American intelligence had noticed the buildup at the site in 2003 but did not conclude it was threatening.
  9. American officials were exchanging intelligence with Israel in advance of the Sept. 6 strike

Note I’m trying here to be as precise as possible about what was known. For instance, it’s pretty clear that 1,4, and 5, taken together, add up to "Israeli jets destroyed the structure." But the site coordinates given here were (highly informed and ultimately correct) speculation on the part of the folks at the independent institute ISIS, who spent many hours in the yeoman’s work of poring over 2000 square kilometers of satellite images to find the likely site of (4). Neither the US, Israel, nor Syria ever provided or confirmed the location of the site before Thursday.

I’m being careful about this because for a while there was considerable confusion about the location of the strike. There are two other largish buildings and an airfield in the vicinity; and there have been reports that the Israeli jets also overflew Turkish airspace. (According to Defensetech, the Turkish border is where Syrian air defenses were weaker, and Israeli jets chose to enter Syrian airspace there.) There were early reports of a strike on an agricultural phosphorus facility or even a port facility; and even speculation that the raid had strick nothing or had failed in its mission.

What The Video Shows

The CIA briefing video now clearly confirms the ISIS location; the imagery there is of the same canyon. The "Box on the Euphrates" is in fact "Al-Kibar". The animated video segments are virtual reality; they are relatively accurate concerning the local geography (a canyon off of the Euphrates) and size of the building, but they are a model and should not be taken as primary evidence in any way.

Here was the question posed in the comments at armscontrolwonk back on October 26, 2007:

Finally, let’s assume for a minute that there was a large , round, reinforced concrete cylinder inside that building. Are there any alternatives for such a facility besides a reactor?

Nobody produced an alternative. Note that the pressures on the interior of the reactor vessel are equivalent to a water depth of about 400 m.

There are four significant stills, all purported to be taken at the Syrian site:

  1. A degraded satellite photo taken soon after the raid showing a large circular structure in the center of the building
  2. A still taken during construction, outside and under tarps, of components of what appear to be a steel reactor pressure vessel for a reactor
  3. A still taken from inside the main building, showing the rebar structure of a large cylindrical tank. nb swimming pools are made with a single layer of rebar, and even diving wells are only 5 m deep
  4. A still taken from inside the main building, showing the rod heads. (Note: the height of the facility must include sufficient headroom for removal of fuel rods and control rods).

Taken together and granting provenance, to me these stills are conclusory: that’s what a nuclear reactor looks like. Alternatives must provide a good engineering reason to have a cylindrical multiply-ported steel-lined concrete vessel, at least 16" thick and 5m deep, quadruply reinforced with rebar, topped by a geometrically regular pattern of rod ports.

Some Other Notables from the Video

  • A satellite picture showing early structure stages which were later covered by a "curtain wall" that gave rise to the final Box-on-the-Euphrates shape
  • A ground-level photo showing the "inside building" under the curtain wall, looking much like Yongbyon
  • A picture showing two people standing for a picture, one of whom also attended US-North Korean Nuclear Talks. Did you hear Mohammed Atta met Czech intelligence?

What We Can Reasonably Assume

If the provenance is granted, then it is safe to assume that the Syrians were building, but not yet operating, a nuclear reactor capable of plutonium production at the site of the Box on the Euphrates, and that they have rebuilt a second structure atop the destroyed remains of that reactor. It is safe to assume no radiological traces will be present to damn the Syrians. One may safely assume that absent extremely intrusive IAEA inspections (which I suspect are unlikely), the reactor core components will never be physically recovered. The reactor components are broadly consistent with being a magnox reactor similar to such reactors built by the UK, France, and North Korea. One may also assume that US officials made no substantial attempt to dissuade the Israelis from the strike.

Is It A Weapons Program?

So, with the provenance caveat, this was a nuclear program. Was it a research program, an energy program, or a weapons program? The evidence we have to date is that the reactor could have served any of the purposes–remember, it may not have been complete. Magnox designs have in the past been used to produce weaponizable plutonium. They have also been used for research, and for power. Nothing in the presented evidence is conclusive to me, one way or another.

There does not seem to be any hint so far of a plutonium reprocessing facility. If the intent is to produce plutonium, the uranium fuel rods, after being in the reactor for some time, must be removed. Some of the uranium will have transmuted into plutonium. The rods need to be dissolved, the plutonium removed, then the untransmuted uranium recovered for reinstallation into the reactor. No building has been identified that might serve as a reprocessing center. Magnox reactors in particular have some special problems, so that reprocessing facilities tend to be located nearby.

The CIA’s Three Conclusions

The CIA video begins and ends with three "key conclusions." The conclusions are in italics, followed by my take.

Syria was building a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor that was nearing operational capability in August 2007. The reactor would have been capapble of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, was not configured to produce electricity, and was ill-suited for research.

If you grant the photo provenance, the construction of a nuclear facility is very well attested by the evidence presented, and certainly consistent with magnox. Magnox designs are gas-cooled and graphite-moderated. I don’t know enough to say conclusively that it is consistent solely with a magnox design. The operational capability in August 2007 is a reasonable inference if the only purpose was for plutonium production, but is not specifically attested to by any presented evidence. The facility would have been capable of producing plutonium for a weapon. No evidence presented leapt out to me as "ill-suited for research". The electrical-configuration question is attested by an apparent lack of local power lines, but logically this may be related to the operational capability question. (i.e. perhaps it was an unfinished facility.) Note that the briefing does not present a conclusion that this was for a weapons program–because there’s no evidence on that question one way or the other.

The reactor was destroyed in early September 2007 before it was loaded with nuclear fuel or operated

That the site was destroyed before nuclear reactions were initiated is well-attested in the public evidence.

We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria’s covert nuclear activities,both before and after the reactor was destroyed. Only North Korea has built this type of reactor in the past 35 years.

I find this conclusion very weak; nothing presented made this seem any stronger than a simple assertion. It was asserted that there is considerable evidence; none was presented. The North Korean Yongbyon complex is said to be the precursor design for the Syrian al-Kibar reactor. The statement "only North Korea has built this type of reactor in the last 35 years" is a little bit misleading; the time period of 35 years was chosen because 40 years ago the UK built them. In fact the North Korean Yongbyon design is actually copied in turn from a British design (specifically, Calder Hall). The UK still operates several of this magnox design even today. A country with little technical ability and scant resources will find much to like in the magnox design: it requires unenriched uranium, low input power, modest technical requirements (mainly in graphite purification), and relative ease of operation. The design is also very thoroughly described in the literature, being relatively obsolete. Finally, as Cheryl Rofer has noted, the detailed design of the control rod and fuel rod ports is actually different in the photos of al-Kibar than in existing photos of the 25 MWt reactor at Yongbyon.


If the pictures are of the site, then Syria was building an undeclared nuclear facility. So–were they of the site?

Now we’re in the world of shadows, angles, oblique transformations, Photoshop, etc. I can’t tell you the answer.

I’ll just make a few observations on the subject:

  • A number of colleagues have expressed a surprising level of skepticism concerning the provenance. Not specific "for reasons X and Y I think these photos were taken somewhere else", but basic variants of "you’ve seen how these people operate, why should we believe these photos are real?" This was surprising even to yours truly, who thinks Dana Perino would lie about meteorology.
  • A scientific experiment that is gunning for a big result generally leaves a trail of less remarkable results first, which establish that the experiment is capable of measuring other things that it ought to be able to measure and which have been previously established. That’s because scientists expect others to be very skeptical–so they build in a reinforcing chain, back to what’s already known, in their arguments from the beginning. In the case at hand, knowing there would be skepticism about the provenance (especially given the history), if I’d been the briefing officer, what would I have done? I would have found and presented a series of photographs that put together a traceable chain of features from the local terrain down into the reactor core. That’s because the local terrain is easily independently verified, by commercial satellites and even Russian/Chinese satellites. One way (but not the only way) would be to have a series of photographs from outside, in the door, along the halls, into the main hall. They claim to have a very large volume of photographs of which only a few are shown. It troubles me nobody thought it important to put together that chain, because it would have reduced the space of skepticism to "it’s a photoshop world". Instead, there are only a few photos, all tightly cropped. (Source protection seems inane here. The steel liner image, and the interior rebar image, can already likely be dated to within a week or so by the relevant Syrian authorities.)
  • To me, the difference wrt the Powell Iraq presentation, is that in that case, a lot of inconclusive images were shown as "illustrations" to go along with bald assertions about what unshown intelligence concluded. Here, the conclusions can be drawn directly from the photos–to the extent they are genuine.
  • The satellite still photo, described as still photo #1 in "What the Video Shows", is particularly key to the provenance. I’m willing to bet that airspace (spacespace?) over the al-Kabir sight was crowded with reconnaissance satellites for several weeks after the strike. If the satellite image were flatly inconsistent with, say, Russian images, I imagine the Russians would take great joy in exposing an American forgery.
  • The use of a forgery in making a case for WMD’s is not unknown in this administration.

And with those, pass along an observation from a colleague:

We’re outsourcing our intelligence-gathering to agencies (e.g., the Israeli government) that clearly have an institutional bias, so we cannot be certain of whether the raw intelligence can be trusted or not. It’s bad enough that we cherry-picked intelligence to go to war in Iraq, but we’re at risk here of having those cherries picked by others and delivered to us…

There are some convincing satellite images of the cylindrical vessel, and there is generally wide availability of third-party satellite images that could likely falsify what’s shown. So given the lack of specific contrary evidence, and despite significant reservations, if you put a gun to my head and said I had to pick, on "preponderance of evidence" I’d go with a genuine provenance. It’s not even close to "beyond a reasonable doubt".

IAEA, NPT, and the UN

One of the many tragedies of the Iraq war is that the formation of UNMOVIC in the run-up seemed like a possible model for a more intrusive anti-proliferation regime. Could it have provided a path to a more effective set of additional protocols to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)? We’ll never know.

Mohammed El-Baradei has censured the US and Israel for providing their information only now at such a late date. (Please note, he has not censured them for the truth or falisty of the information.) The IAEA can only barely demand access now to the site; Syria is not going to grant access; and even with access, the relevant evidence has been demolished and buried under a building. Had IAEA been notified instead of scrambling the F-16’s, the IAEA might have had a chance to prove its relevance. And a successful proof of relevance would have been good for the world, thought perhaps not for UN-haters centered in Washington, DC. (In fairness, one should also weight that with the possibility of an unsuccessful proof of relevance…)

In the comments on Friday, klynn provided a nice timeline of UN and IAEA related actions since the strike.

The US administration, having been pre-warned by the Israelis, made a policy choice not to notify the IAEA. One can speculate why, but really it’s incumbent upon the administration to explain to Americans why they made that choice.

Rhetorical Links to Iran

I feel confident that we are going to be hearing a lot more of this sort of thing (Adm. Mike Mullen):

It should serve as a reminder to us all of the very real dangers of proliferation and need to rededicate ourselves to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, particularly into the hands of a state or a group with terrorist connections.

In case that was too subtle for you, the SAO at the CIA press briefing was a little less coy in spelling it out:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:With respect to Iran, the Syrian episode reminds us of the ability of states to obtain nuclear capability covertly and how destabilizing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would be.

(Emphasis mine.) Iran was also mentioned in this briefing as "potentially interrelated", "the same kind of cooperation between North Korea and Iran", and "But is there something going on there that resembles this program that we we’re talking about in Syrian, in Iran?" It would be irresponsible not to speculate, don’t you think?

In the same Syria briefing, Iran also was mentioned in the context of the declassified NIE:

But our unfortunate choice of words in our NIE caused you all in the press to misrepresent what we were trying to explain. Three parts of the program; they halted one narrow piece of it, which was a secret program – weapons-head design. They continue with fissile material; they continue with ballistic missile systems for delivery. So we don’t know where it is at the moment.

(Emphasis mine.) This made me nearly choke on my breakfast. Are they really using this Syria episode to retract the crystal-clear statements in the Iran NIE?

Steinn Sigurdsson at Catdynamics has some thoughts on what the Israeli willingness to strike al-Kibar might signal for the upcoming planned turn-on of the Iranian Arak facility.

Learning More

The original source for much of the information about the al-Kibar site has been the Institute for Science and International Security. There has also been very credible analysis by the posters and commenters at armscontrolwonk, and in a series of posts by Cheryl Rofer at whirledview. There have also been some very interesting threads at moonofalabama, but I simply have not followed the commentary there long enough to have any idea how reliable it is relative to the others I know well. The Federation of American Scientists has a 735-page tome of pretty much every press report, image, satellite photo, or commentary that has related to the al-Kibar site. The FAS is an outstanding site in general for technical security information. Globalsecurity provided a very complete and credible analysis back in November. And I provide occasional commentary on matters nuclear at my own place, nuclearmangos.

Summing Up

The CIA has published pictures that clearly show interior, unplaceable shots of the steel and reinforced concrete components of a nuclear reactor pressure vessel, an interior and unplaceable shot of a nearly completed reactor core, and a placeable satellite image of the damaged al-Kibar structure showing a large round structure in the center of the building. To me it is not conclusive, but more likely than not, that the provenance is genuine and the images indeed show an undeclared nuclear facility at the Syrian site of al-Kibar.

Questions We Need To Be Asking

The nuclear situation in the Middle East is going to get more complicated as a result of actions on all sides of this–Syrian, American, and Israeli. American servicemen and women most of all, but all of us ultimately, will surely in the coming months be bearing greater risks than we did before.

  • We deserve an answer to why American policy makers made the policy choice to pursue this through means other than the IAEA.
  • We deserve an answer to the question what impact bypassing and undermining the IAEA was was expected to have in our difficult situation with respect to Iran.
  • Reporters need to be asking "pull on the thread" type questions, even where there’s no specific reason for doubt. Some of this went on in the CIA briefing (i.e. "were American capabilities involved in the Sept. 6 raid?") but reading the transcript you can practically hear the reporters turning to one another and saying, "These are not the droids we are looking for."
  • We deserve an answer to the question of what national technical means of verification the US can make available to the IAEA to settle the question once and for all should access to the site be gained.
  • We deserve to know how, why, and when the first agnostic American assessment of the nature of the site was changed to an assessment that it was a nuclear reactor.
  • And finally, we deserve better than having to guess whether these images have an indisputable provenance. Given what’s at stake, and the history of our village with wolves, this administration owes it to us to prove it.
76 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    I think the big question to start with is the IAEA one. Had Bush shared this info with the IAEA, they would have been able to prove that Syria had nukes. Had they at least revealed what Israel had done in September, the IAEA might have gotten in there and gotten evidence.

    But conveniently, since they didn’t, they can use this to war-monger in Iran.

  2. AZ Matt says:

    This is kind of like – We were attacked by Al-Quaida located in Afghanistan so now we need to invade Iraq.

      • AZ Matt says:

        You just need to mix Hugo Chavez into this and George will have the troops on the road in a week.

          • emptywheel says:

            And didn’t the DEA pick up someone in Lebanon (Hezbollah ties?) using the same kind of ploy as they used with Bout?

            Syria > Iran > North Korea > Venezuela > Hezballah.

            Everything’s falling into place. And note, there are provenance issues with the laptop of death from Ecuador, too. So maybe it’s all one giant ruse.

          • AZ Matt says:

            Well, let’s see…, who uses depleted uranium in weapons and who has been shooting it all over the Middle East at targets, and all over Serbia too?

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    Prof. Foland,

    What’s your take on the comments from one of Juan Cole’s readers?

    I know next to nothing about this stuff, but the question about the graphite seems germane.

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    I was reading the current issue of Catalyst, Union of Concerned Scientists, Spring 2008, which has an article by Lisbeth Gronlund “Nuclear Power in a Warming World”, evidently not yet available online, but her biographical sketch is there; an excerpt from the article:

    “Most nuclear reactors in the world use fuel made from low-enriched uranium (LEU), which cannot be used to make nuclear weapons. However, the enrichment facilities used to make LEU can also be used to make highly enriched uranium (HEU)–which cn be used to make nuclear weapons. Any nation with an enrichment plant (only a few countries have such facilities today) would have a leg up on building nuclear weapons.

    “The other nuclear weapons material is plutonium, a by-product of most nucler reactors Plutonium cannot currently be stolen from nuclear power plants because it is bound up in large, heavy, and highly radioactive spent fuel assemblies. The US government, however, is proposing a plan to “reprocess” this waste to extract the plutonium and use it to make new nuclear fuel. Because plutonium is not highly radioactive, it can be handled without serious harm. Moreover, if the plutonium is no longer contained in large, heavy object, it could be stolen by an insider or taken by force during routine transportation.

    “Such theft is made easier because commercial reprocessing facilities and fuel fabrication facilities handle many tons of separated plutonium in solution or powder form each year. And because of the inherent uncertainty in measuring solutions and powders, as many as tens or even hundreds of pounds of plutonium may be unaccounted for each year. A relatively simple nuclear weapon can be made with roughly 15 pounds of plutonium.” ibid @p7.

    I wonder what the possibility would be to design a reactor to build dirty weapons, the radioanalog of an ied, if you will; suppose, say, someone like Виктор Бут happened upon some purloined reactor materials and flew them to Syria for ‘reprocessing’ into dirtymaterial for sale to terrists. Only a few incidents of actual detonation in an urban area would suffice to create a lot of chaos in developed world cities and economies. My take would be to get the nations of the world out of the kind of cheerleading in which the thoughtful Lisbeth Gronlund appears to engage in her cited contemplative article, excerpted above, instead dedicating radionuclide materials R+D and products to the fields of science rather than introducing more of them into the environment under the guise of protecting glaciers from melting from fossil fuel induced global warming. Here are some documents related to a cumbersome retrofit EIR process for the Oyster Bay nuclear plant in NJ, which was built before many modern environmental safeguards became law. To me, little has changed in the public dialog on nuclear science in the past sixty years, there being an aliquot of arms merchant thrills accompanying the rhetoric. I appreciate the forensic review in the post, as well, as information slowly appears in public to explain where the current nationstates in the middleeast are likely to be headed, and what we as members of UN can do to obtain openness and assure peoples’ safety. I am glad ew has afforded a workspace for ProfFoland to add clarity to the related issues. Though often I shun listening to much of Dr. Helen Caldicott because of the passion of her polemics, I find her voice to be one of the healthiest on the topic of where our r+d should go in science and energy, as she describes succinctly in this 2007 article written about the US nuclear reactor industry, for a publication in Adelaide.

  5. radiofreewill says:

    Professor Foland – Great Post!

    If Bush had waited, putting together a Brief containing sequential “stage of construction” photos, as you suggest, until Sufficient Permanent Structures were in place to clearly identify a Reactor with High Confidence – and then turned the Brief over to IAEA – this would have been handled So Much Better.

    If it had gone that way, then the non-proliferation ‘regime’ would have worked as it was supposed to.

    Now, however, we’re left to dispute the provenance of photos – the collection of which, so far, hardly explains the need for a Pre-Emptive Tactical Strike.

    I mean – so what? Even if the Syrians had loaded fuel rods into the vessel, how long would it have taken to generate a harvestable volume of Plutonium? Years?

    With what we know, so far, the Most Compelling Conclusion seems to be that Bush and the Israelis circumvented a System that Almost Certainly Would Have Worked in this situation – the IAEA Non-Proliferation Regime.

    So, my take on Bush and the Israelis keeping IAEA out of the loop on the Building on the Euphrates is because the Goal wasn’t to Cooperate in the NP Regime, but to Enforce Cowboy Diplomacy – with Actions justified to Bush’s Level of Suspicion Only.

    You are probably ’seeing’ the same presentation that Bush got – during which, he blurted out at some point in the dog and pony show, “That’s a goddamn nukular reactor! I can see it myself! It’s a threat to Isruhl’s existence! I’m green-lighting them to Bomb the hell out of it!”

    And, I’ll bet it never crossed his mind to work through the IAEA, either.

    In fact, imvho, it’s Far More Likely that Friday, September 7th, was a 45-day Renewal of UE Legality deadline, and Bush bombed a Cheney-photoshopped fertilizer barn to ‘legitimize’ the nukular threat that he uses to Claim his King Super Powers.

    That’s at least as believable as the We Bombed It One Week Before the Syrian Death Star Became Operational Scenario…

  6. masaccio says:

    This administration won’t do anything that might give international institutions credibility. After all, El Baradei was right, he proved the administration was full of it, and they hate him.

    • MadDog says:

      When your mission is to “let loose the dogs of war”, making use of international agencies who’s mission is to “prevent” wars is, to say the least, counter-productive.

      Kind of like no bank robber calls the cops to let them know he’s going to rob a bank.

      Same deal here with Junya and Deadeye. Bringing in the IAEA would be tantamount to calling the cops while on the way to robbing the bank.

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    It’s worrying that actions that destroy trust have impacted our ability to try and clearly focus on the technical issues. Appreciate your detailed analysis and analytical tone.

  8. DickDurata says:

    Prof. Foland, when you do get the time, I’d be interested in your reaction to the Moon of Alabama post (there is only one). To me, there is clear evidence of photoshopping in the photographs in the video presentation (provided they are accurate reproductions). If there is proof of photoshopping, it makes acceptance of any of the evidence ingenuous.

    • behindthefall says:

      From the Moon over Alabama link:

      The slideshow zooms onto the center building in the above picture (11:26). But this isn’t only a photograph. The “windows” and lines on the facade are much finer than other details of the quite blurry picture. They are also exactly horizontal.

      OK, I am not a lawyer, but I guess I did spend years slinging around digital images for research purposes, and that facade just does not pass the smell test. Somebody convolve an edge detection kernel with that image, and watch the facade’s features pop out, while the rest of the image’s edges become ragged and broken. At least that’s my take on it after enlarging the picture in the browser. It’s very pretty, but it has been made to order, IMHO. Made to fit the context-free concrete wall under construction, I would guess.

  9. PetePierce says:

    The title of this extensive piece is Syriana. Definitions of the word are nebulous, but there was a film that was a geopolitical film. I’m always reminded of the film when I see these witless BP/Conoco (Connex-Killen) commercials that idiotically say “we need to find fuel saving solutions”–I’ve come to understand that anytime I turn on the TV and hear the word solutions–it’s a code word for “I’m spewing quintissential bullshit because I want something from you and believe you’re stupid enough to give it to me.”

    In the film Syriana, adapted from George B produced by George Clooney, the “good guy” portrayed by George Clooney, after Harrison Ford turned it down, who was trying to save the enlightened Democratic brother (Prince Nasar) got his ass blown to bits along with Nasar by the bad guys who portrayed the American CIA, who wanted to deposit the small minded younger brother who would be a puppet of the U.S. and Big Oil. This was prior to having his career blown to bits by a snarky oversight committee and a sneaky CIA in conjunction with Big Oil when he uncovered diversion of a missle which is eventually used to blow up a Connex-Killen tanker (poetic justice?).

    I found the movie to be a remarkably accurate direct representation of the sham bananna republic oligarchy/chain of monopolies that govern the U.S. currently instead of anything representing a real democracy.

    So I’m not sure what the title name of this piece “Syriana” represents.

    Professor Foland asks in his meticulous account and extensively documented account full of links to other sites and people who have spent considerable time in analysis of the strike at al-Kibar here and at his blog Nuclearmangos:

    So, with the provenance caveat, this was a nuclear program. Was it a research program, an energy program, or a weapons program?

    I agree strongly that we deserve answers to every one of the questions raised. I don’t expect us to get any of them in this current administration.

    The parallel to the runup to Iraq is obvious, but I believe had IAEA been notified, there would have been an inspection standoff and they would have never gotten access at any time anywhere near the site dashing its chance to proove its relevance.

    Mossad claims to have infiltrated a Syrian nuclear facility, and that they have pictures of the facility on the ground we have not seen. Isreael claims to have “nuclear material” obtained by Sayeret Matkal we haven’t seen.

    According to Melman, Yossi. “Records on N. Korean ship docked in Syria were altered”, Haaretz, 2007-09-17. Retrieved on 2007-09-23, a North Korean 1700 ton cargo ship was docked in Syria, falsely registed as a South Korean ship, and its itinerary is not registered and a mystery, as are its subsequent rapid name changes in the time period from a few days before the strike to today.

    • Professor Foland says:

      Primarily I intended “Syriana” simply as the parallel construction to “Americana”–i.e. the latin adjective turned into a collective noun for things Syrian.

      That it is also the name of a movie whose tag line is “everything is connected” did not escape me.

      behindthefall–I imagine that every one of those images has been sampled and resampled a dozen times between the time they were taken, then transferred to video, then transcoded into a video file, then captured off of someone’s screen, then posted on a web server. If there are various sorts of edge effects that’s not necessarily surprising.

      That said, concerning the image at 11:26: I strongly believe that the entire 3-d video portion is made to order. That’s precisely why I said: “The animated video segments are virtual reality; they are relatively accurate concerning the local geography (a canyon off of the Euphrates) and size of the building, but they are a model and should not be taken as primary evidence in any way.”

      • PetePierce says:

        If Israel flew into Syria for an airstrike after IAF Shaldags marked targets based on intelligence gleaned by Mossad and Sayeret Matkal and jammed Syrian Russian Pantsyr-S1E radar with a Suter or similar network, I believe they had a reason. I’d trust the Israelis. I wouldn’t trust any American pictures, video or statements from the American military, DOJ, CIA, or any other American agency as far as I could spit it.

        Israel knows that they have to make use of the technology they invent and we give them to protect themselves. They can’t rely on anyone else and don’t have time given the distance to refract what they do through the delusional, lying minds of what is now the American Pentagon and the American West Wing.

        Think of it this way. Israel has a wacky bunch of neighbors within softball throwing range of their home. They have explosive devices. There are no cops to help you. That’s Israel’s situation. If reactors are at any stage of development in Syria or any other country hostile to Americans, Jews, or Israel, it’s their job to know about them and take them out.

        I’m not aware of anyone yet lobbing missles into Harvard Yard or the Metro Boston area on a daily basis, and killing children as they are into Israeli cities and have done for years.

        I do know we have a pretty litigenous bunch of Americans who get pissed off at the hint of a slight including the stupidty of major news media personnel who are paid a few million dollars a year who make issues of flagpins while they and their wives have never touched a flagpin.

        I know that we have a Secretary of State who has had as meaningful an impact on peace and stability in the Middle East with a foreign policy as sophisticated as she would have had had she not progressed beyond the ninth grade.

        • emptywheel says:


          Israel also has–for the very reasons you say, though I wouldn’t say them that way–an incentive to do whatever it takes to persuade the US to do what it wants. It has demonstrably done this repeatedly–some of the really bad intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, for example, came from Israel.

          It’s not a question of whether Israel is aware of what its neighbors are doing (though by all accounts I’ve seen, they had no idea that Gaza was about to spring the wall into Egypt). It’s a question of whether Israel wants to give us the truth and/or the tools to assess the truth ourselves.

          One question I have about all the photos Prof Foland discusses wrt provenance (that is, the ones that would prove chain of custody) is whether WE have them. Has Israel shared them with us?

          • PetePierce says:

            Your points are well taken. I didn’t express much of what I felt in a nuanced or polished way in keeping with Professor Foland’s post which was nuanced and analytical, (and from his blog he has been paying attention to the issues where nuclear initiative intersect Middle East stability for a good while with a compelling background for doing it).

            I’ve watched Israel on the receiving end of a lot of deadly attacks for most of my life and for much of its life. To put it crudely, the’ve bent over backwards for years to try to progress peacefully, and the pattern has been for them to only attack when there were solid reasons or when they were attacked incessantly. Arafat squandered a colossal opportunity for peace, and as most of the Middle East leaders do, he pissed on his people and educational opportunities for them, who lived in squalor while he and his coterie drained their money. Jordan, Egypot and many other countries in the region do much the same thing, despite the polished Western education of Abdullah II and his wife.

            We had incredibly accurate intelligence leading up to the Iraq war (my oversimplification) and incredibly bad intelligence. Much of the bad intelligence was the fictional work of Cheney and the White House Iraq Group. I don’t know how much bad intelligence actually came from Israel, but it’s my assessment that even when the White House Iraq Group (including Matlin one half of what Huffington has called the Donnie and Marie of American politics) and all the official and unofficial Cheney-Addington-Feith–Matlinistas were birthing the Iraq fiasco, that the CIA actually presented accurate intelligence as to No WMD and the myriad of problems that would happen after an invasion that we will now see draining lives and billions for years to come and they chose to ignore it. Cheney and others twisted and broke arms at the CIA, DIA, and other agencies to shape the intelligence to meet their needs. Colin Powell and Condi Rice were active participants in lying about intelligence.

            It is a little pointless for me to proffer these arguments to you though, because if I were to look back at your archives you have probably blogged very accurately in detail on the Iraqi intelligence picture countless times.

            Although Israel-US intelligence sharing is probably an exponentially better relationship and of higher quality and sophistication than any we have with anyone else in the Middle East or for that matter anyone else with the exception of the U.K., I doubt Israel is sharing everything with the U.S. We have spies who infiltrate Mosad, and they have spies who infiltrate our agencies or pay for our intelligence as well.

            Can you imagine though a reason why Israel would take out a facility like the one represented at al-Kibar using F-15s, F-16s, using ELINT and similar electronics? I don’t think they had a spurious reason for going in, whatever the provenance of pictures the US proffers.

            I’m not sure what the Israelis know about the Gaza wall and many tunnels, but it’s difficult for them to catch every tunnel or assess every missle silo of course in the areas bordering them.

            I think you’re headed to Scotland, and I hope you all have a great time for the two weeks you’re there.

            • emptywheel says:

              I won’t respond in detail. But suffice it to say a lot of the really egregious PRIMARY sources were Israeli. So yes, we had the intell on the aluminum tubes and chose to ignore it. But there were defectors who told fabrications that came through Israel.

              I don’t entirely agree with your assessment of ME reality. Fine. But my issue here is that we should never conflate our interests in ME and Israels. They occasionally coincide, but at times they are in direct opposition.

              • PetePierce says:


                There may well have been defectors who came from Israel with faulty intelligence. I just wasn’t aware they played a major role. I could write an essay about fabricated intelligence that came from the White House Iraq Group that went far beyond aluminum tubes and how Powell and Rice lied egregiously and often enough that one would have to have their head examined to tout them as VP candidates. They deserve a lot of blame for 911 and for Iraq.

                I’m not arguing as to whether Israeli intelligence was faulty as to Iraq. If it was and it played a significant role , you’ve educated me and shed light on on of scores of areas I know much less about than I should.

                I simply wasn’t aware of it as a major or minor source of intelligence that has been represented by people we would both respect as to who provided said intelligence.

                I just plain missed that topic in my reading on Iraq. That may be the case. Had I been given a multiple choice question on faulty Iraq pre-war or past 6 years intelligence, I would not have thought of listing Israel or focusing on it if given an essay question for a history/political science “blue book.” Before your time, back in the day, we actually used to write our exams in blue books. Now you very computer savvy kids probably take every exam on your Iphone or one of the hundreds of internet in your pocket devices Intel unvailed in of course, China two weeks ago. You know China, the place that can arrest and bury you for years if your a journalist or you blog something they don’t like-and compromise your access to a lawyer-much like the US has done whether your a prisoner as a material witness courtesy of Judge Mukasey’s courtroom aswas done scores of times by material witness Mike in the SDNY or at Gitmo.

                I haven’t seen many blogs by the FDL lawyers on the egregious antics Mike Mukasey pulled when he was on the bench at SDNY, particularly his material witness incarceration abuse, but one of them is very aware of them.

                I’m not saying something as banal or argumentive as “show me your sources” but I would appreciate it if you would at least guide me to a representative article(s) or book I can use to enlighten myself there and I will take advantage of the help.

                Can you show me something you think represents the “egregious” intelligence the US relied upon or more accurately represented as reliable intelligence and its sources from Israel?

                Also when the Mosad did send a Red Alert to Tenet, Condi, Cheney, and Powell 5 days before 911 that bin Ladin would attack the US–can you tell me exactly how the US handled that Red Alert? I think that would fit the description of the word egregious aptly.

                I know from James Risen’s articles/book in NYT and other sources that Wolfowitz relied heavily on Israeli intelligence (among other bad sources) in lobbying to go into Iraq and I wouldn’t trust anything Wolfowitz has ever done as far as I could spit him. Karen Kiawatski wrote about it.

                I’m hardly saying that Israel has done anything perfectly, however, I do believe that we get a substantial amount of actionable intelligence from the Israelis and I would really be interested if you believe that Israel has been the agressor since 1948 in instigating attacks. There I believe that they have been catching as many missles as Ivan Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, and Jorge Posada have caught balls in their major league careers.

                I would love to see your reading list for a day, a week, and a month. It would be fascinating because your constructive energy channelled toward writing, researching, and reading outside of focused research must require terrific organization.

                I try to read widely when I get the time, but in my reading, and there are always a stack of books, sites, blogs, media print or otherwise I don’t get to, of all the books on intelligence leading up to the Iraq I never though we should have invaded, deplore as much as anyone who reads your blog, agree with Siun’s posts on Iraq at FDL pretty much accross the board, I have not read much about Israel’s faulty intelligence on Iraq delivered to the US.

                The fictional intelligence crafted by Cheney and agencies he shaped in this mission is legend. Many fine books and articles have been written on this–it goes profoundly beyond aluminum tubes.

                I think ME stands for Middle East when you say you don’t agree with my assessment of ME reality. I didn’t give much of an assessment, but I’d love to know specifically what you think I’m conflating or misrepresenting there–a couple phrases will do and I would be glad to dig in and research it much further. I wasn’t aware of much I said about ME reality. Are you referring to my comment that Arafat squandered a golden opportunity for peace or that he screwed his people remarkably or that his wife manipulated even after his death to make sure that she got sufficient millions to shop Paris’ Rue de Honore and for her Ritz rooms in Paris?

                Do you mean my comment that most of Jordan lives in gutter poverty while the Kingdom in Jordan and Abudulla II and his wife live in the lifestyle Barbara Walters and Andrea Mitchell dream about?

                Or my inferences at other times that the Middle East has done very little to step up to the plate to advance peace accross the board–Israel aside?

                Like a lot of people, I have a stack of easy reading books I use to kill time if I have to wait somewhere, and don’t want to use a pc or an Iphone, and I recommend a book to you that is fiction and not a great work of lit but I think accurately does represent political areas of conflict in the ME, and that’s

                Richard North Patternson’s Exile.

                Yes it’s light fiction (I like trial lawyer mysteries for light reading) but it was well researched and I think pretty representative of some of the situation in the ME. Patterson was an assistant AG in Ohio, and served as liason to the Watergate Special Prosecutor back in the day. He captures the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in a pretty constructive way for fiction IMHO.

              • PetePierce says:

                But my issue here is that we should never conflate our interests in ME and Israels. They occasionally coincide, but at times they are in direct opposition.

                I don’t know if quotes are showing up anymore except in the new context of hyperlinks that some people might not click. You said that we should never conflate our interests in ME and Israel’s and that they ocassionaly coincide, but at times are in direct opposition and you are entirely right.

                This is a very important point, and I agree with you. It’s a complicated issue, and not well represented at all when proferred by either party as say, an election issue. Unfortunately, it’s all too often viewed as “us-them” or a black and white issue and you’re right it’s not–and I know when you say that it’s based on years of reading and thinking its true.

                Maybe I conflate US-Israeli issues or my views of Israel’s conduct and its welfare. I try not to. I sincerely believe that Israel has been seeking peace sincerely since 1948, although you may disagree with many of their positions and they are always hotly debated by the Israeli people and the Kineset, its cabinet, and its two major parties. I can’t say the same for the Palistinians or Hamass or frankly any other middle eastern country that IMHO have been disengaged from the peace process, active or passive agressors, and certainly asleep at the switch as to the profound problems like the egregious refugee abandonment that the US has created in Iraq.

                • kspena says:

                  Pete, Have you read Karen Kwiatkowski’s reporting on the fabricating of intelligence leading up to the war: she was an officer in the “Office of Special Plans”? Here’s a place to start: a long 2004 article she wrote for Salon, “The New Pentagon Papers”. I’ve seen other reporting where she describes the flow of Israeli officers/intell through that department.


  10. egregious says:

    They could have built a nearly completed reactor for the sake of ramping up yet another war. Certainly they have gone to a lot of trouble in the past to generate “evidence” of why we must commit the lives of our troops and the nation’s savings for some new quixotic endeavor.

    They stripped out an entire network of agents, which took years to build, in order to attempt to get VX across the border last time. Ooops, didn’t work, sorry, no WMD. A lot of that story remains to be told.

    • PetePierce says:

      They could have built a nearly completed reactor for the sake of ramping up yet another war.

      Who is they? Do you mean the Syrians or the Americans/Israelis?

  11. Professor Foland says:

    [email protected]

    For the most part I agree with you–incontrovertible evidence of photoshopping, with one exception, gets it all tossed. The exception is this: the satellite images have already been deliberately degraded in resolution to hide US imaging capabilities. If you look at CKR’s work at whirledview, look at the third image (attributed to commercial imagery) and the final image (attributed to US satellites). I for one don’t believe that commercial imagery is an order or magnitude better than US military. That’s why I feel sure the image has been deliberately downgraded–and I don’t have a problem with that. But it would have been nice for them to have said so, because artifacts in degradation could be used as an excuse to cover artifacts from mischief.

    Actually, all of this brings another thought to mind: a scientific discovery, say of the Higgs, would have stakes well below 1% as great, and would have a website a hundred times better. Really, would it kill them to post on a site, with the original pixellation (modulo the sort of degraded resolution described above), all the stills shown in the video? To post their own measurements and calculations?

    And yet another thought: the federal government would find it almost impossible, I imagine, to obtain so much as a six-month jail sentence with unprovenanced photographic evidence. In a court they’d have to produce someone who took the pictures and could attest first-hand to the circumstances of their taking and their authenticity. I think the stakes here are a lot more than one six-month jail sentence for someone.

  12. Rayne says:

    Dog. Not barking.

    Why does a dog not bark? Because he doesn’t feel a need to, or because he’s been muzzled, or because he’s been trained and rewarded not to do bark at certain provocations?

    Why didn’t Syria make any noises about this bombing?

    1) were they guilty of something, and they felt they didn’t have a reason to complain?
    2) were they not guilty of doing anything, and they felt it would be useless to protest?
    3) were they doing something under contract, and it wasn’t any concern of theirs if the contract work was bombed?
    4) were they simply checking to see if they could suss out reaction, so no response was needed save for recording the response?
    5) did they make noises, but nobody heard them?
    6) were they providing a service to somebody involved in this mission, in exchange for their silence?
    7) some other reason I haven’t thought of…?

    The images provided draw us into the same kind of arguments that we had over the damned TANG-AWOL story and the kerning of the letters produced. Nevermind that the story was dead-on accurate, that president was an AWOL substance abuser, but the argument over the provenance of the letters overtook and swallowed the truth.

    What other components of the story can’t be gamed — like the response or lack thereof from Syrian leadership? Were there responses from any other leaders in the middle east that we’ve ignored? What were the immediate responses from Russia, who is as likely a player in all this mess as any other? And what about China, who has only to pick up the pieces in this global board game when all the rest of the players have devolved into fisticuffs when their attention has been hijacked by the bombing of a BOE in Syria?

    Why didn’t Syria, at the very minimum, make noises about an attack on a domestic power facility being built for future use, even if the facility was really being used for nefarious purposes?

    Why would Syria construct a bloody box out in the middle of the desert, where satellites can readily pick up extremely fine detail, where other technical capability can likely detect the amount and type of metal in the structure from space, unless they intended it to be the target of a bombing run?

    And why would Syria quickly slap up another BOE in the very same space, without a single word about the purpose of the new building, to leave open the question of legitimacy of purpose — unless they deliberately expected legitimacy to be questioned?

    I can’t help but think this BOE, old or new, is some kind of tar baby.

    • bobschacht says:

      I like Rayne’s questions.

      Also, Prof. Foland, you make no mention of any part of Al the Spook’s analysis of this Syrian Caper or his sources. Is this because
      a) you find his analysis erroneous, off-target, or chasing after wind;
      b) you haven’t read it;
      c) you used a few of his sources with or without knowing they were the same, and don’t cite him because he was not a primary source for any of your analysis.

      I am perfectly willing to abandon The Spook’s analysis if you have considered it and found it wanting; I’m just curious.

      Also, I second WilliamOckham’s question April 27th, 2008 at 2:18 pm @9
      who asked “What’s your take on the comments from one of Juan Cole’s readers?”

      Thanks for taking the time to put your analysis together and posting it here.

      Bob in HI

      • Rayne says:

        Thank you. And now, more questions.

        Second dog. Not barking either.

        Where are the Turks in all this? Why haven’t we heard a peep out of them about what appears to be a run by Israeli fighters over Turkish airspace?

        How did the Turks know with absolute certainty that the Israelis meant them no harm?

        How did the Turks know that the Israelis weren’t going to foment trouble with the Kurds in northern Iraq, since Kurdish territory overlaps Syria, Turkey and Iraq, and has not been too far from the point where the Euphrates crosses from Turkey into Syria?

        Are the Turks on the kind of terms with both Syria and Iran and Iraq that they wouldn’t give a fig if Israel used Turkish airspace to bomb any of these three countries without advanced warning to any of them? How could they be so certain that the Israelis wouldn’t be flying towards the Tigris instead of the Euphrates?

        Or did the Turks comment, but only in Turkish? or sotto voce?

        I’m sure I’ll think of more questions overnight.

        • sailmaker says:

          I think Cheney told Turkey (NATO country) to give Israel the green light for over flight. Cheney wanted this bombing 1) it screwed up Condi’s peace conference 2) it tested the Syrians new radar system 3) Cheney has the 1% tolerance of ‘axis of evil’ folk doing anything mysterious, and Israel probably aided his phobias with ‘intelligence’ made to suit.

          Here is Scott Ritter’s take on the bombing.
          Here is an article about Syria complaining to the UN.
          Here is a report about a fire in a chemical weapons plant in July 2007 – several Iranians were killed, and possibly some North Koreans (depends upon the news source

          My personal belief is that the Syrians were weaponizing Scuds with chemicals and got caught. Why would there be a circular facility in ‘Al-Kibar’? I dunno. Maybe it was a nuke facility. Maybe it was a pretense at having nuclear ambitions, since the US does not seem to bomb those who actually have ‘the bomb’, only wimps who do not. Anyway, why would anyone buy nuclear technology from North Korea – their knowledge (as far as I have read) is not worth the money one might pay for it.

          • PetePierce says:

            It is fact, ayk, that in 7/07 an accidental explosion happened in Allepo, a trading town in the Northwestern tip of Syria, at a secret military installation that killed about 15 people while they were attempting to weaponize one of their Scud-C missles with mustard gas. This explosion is probably a metaphor for many explosion in Iran, the Soviet Union, Syria, and many other places in the Middle East you will never hear about.

  13. steinn says:

    The reactor is unlikely to be a power reactor, it is too small, looks like it could generate only 5 MW or so, and little as that is, there doesn’t seem to be anything out there that needs a dedicated power plant.
    The reactor could be a research reactor, but there is, again, nothing out there. Who are the researchers and how do they get there, where do they live, and what research is worth the effort.
    If the provenance of the photos is true, it is a weapons material reactor, and if construction is decent, it could make a few grams of Plutonium 239 per day. Enough, maybe, to make a bomb in a year, or two, or three – depending on how good their weapons design is and how efficient the extraction.

    The absence of a reprocessing facility is a major puzzle.
    Other minor puzzles are the peculiar cooling method – dumping the hot water back into the river, allegedly – makes one think the basic design might be a naval reactor concept, not North Korean; and, who supplied the graphite for the core, and who made the fuel rods where.

  14. Professor Foland says:

    Rayne and Pete P–

    as I wrote the post I intentionally tried to drain it of any arguments that required me to impute motives to anyone. I tried to stick to what conclusions could be drawn short of going into motive. That doesn’t mean I think it’s unimportant–they are pieces of evidence (#1 and #2, if you’ll notice); it means interpretation of motive is beyond the limits of what I’m any good at–I’m simply no Billmon.

    So I think the very fact of the Isreali raid is very significant; the Syrian silence is very significant. They contribute to the fact that my own belief in the truth of the nuclear story is higher than my belief in the images.

    kspena–I love China Matters!

    Al the Spook’s analysis was made at a time when there were a lot of conflicting stories. A lot has been filtered out in the meantime. The UCS did an analysis some time ago showing that Iranian nuclear facilities would not even be reliably destroyed by strategic nuclear weapons, let alone tactical ones.

    PeteP, don’t get me wrong. I am posing questions for American policy makers. I do think the policy case for the Israeli government to bypass IAEA might be pretty compelling. If you’re Israel, you’re going to have to wait for the fuel to be loaded before you “call the cops”, and at that point, your options are limited and you are wholly at the mercy of what the IAEA does. Israel lacks the political muscle to affect much what IAEA would do. I think the situation is different for American policy makers; and most of us are in any case American citizens and not Israeli. Israeli citizens should be asking the relevant questions of their own government.

    I actually agree the “that kind of serif isn’t right!” argument is not the argument we want to have. I believe the provenance is probably genuine. What I think is wrong is: I shouldn’t have to guess on this.

    About the exposed location: if I look at my globe, Syria is only about the size of Illinois. I grew up in Illinois, and I know the state fairly well; and I think there’s just no geographically “perfect” location for a secret facility. Illinois, being mostly flat farmland, is probably an unfortunate example, but my point is simply that Syria being a small country, it’s possible there’s no better place to hide it. I simply don’t know how significant the location is.

    • PetePierce says:

      These are all excellent points, and you are to be commended for your blog and your posts–this one and others.

      There is nothing I need to do to emphasize Israel’s precarious position because it is so tiny and surrounded by people with bombs and missles overtly vowing to wipe it off the face of the earth, and I didn’t mean to insult you by my rather crudely written posts above.

      I know you know how small they are in square miles, and the incoming that they have taken since 1948. As I said to Marcy, I appreciate her points as to our interests and Israel’s coinciding or not, and that they are oversimplified, particularly as “Democratic-Republican election or political issues” and they are ayk the source of prime contention by the parties and cabinet members and Kineset members in Israel.

      Absolutely (I’m in the US born and raised) we should be asking those questions of our government that you posed so well.

      We should not have to guess on this and in so many other areas that Marcy and the FDL headliners bring to light so well. The guessing drives me up a wall all the time, and I’ve never seen more of it than in this administration and don’t believe I ever will but I could be surprised.

      The location significance and size I was stressing was mainly Israel’s but I know you’re aware of it profoundly.

      Thanks for raising these questions and your constructive hard work.

    • bobschacht says:

      Al the Spook’s analysis was made at a time when there were a lot of conflicting stories. A lot has been filtered out in the meantime. The UCS did an analysis some time ago showing that Iranian nuclear facilities would not even be reliably destroyed by strategic nuclear weapons, let alone tactical ones.

      OK, I accept that characterization. However, your summary of facts states only, somewhat laconically, that

      Israeli jets flew over Syria on Sept. 6 (”Operation Orchard”)

      . You don’t comment, one way or the other, about the extravagant firepower of so many attack jets, with ELINT supervision. Was this not a bit of overkill if all they were trying to take out was a primitive and potentially nuclear processing site? Perhaps the original target was, as stated, this remote site in the Syrian desert. But by flexing muscles far in excess of what was needed, perhaps it was at least (1) a dress rehearsal for an attack against Iranian sites, and (2) intended as a message to Iran about what might happen. This goes somewhat beyond your professed area of expertise, but let’s not get so near-sighted that we lose all sense of proportion.

      Bob in HI

      • Professor Foland says:

        I’m not a general, but I think if I were, I’d always opt for “overkill” when that option was available. I also have little doubt that one of the “pros” in the decision-making to go ahead with the strike was “send a message a Tehran.”

        I also laconically state 5, that the structure was destroyed. So to me that makes it unlikely that this was a raidus interruptus. Remember that ISIS found the reactor site with not more information than point 1, that Israeli jets flew over northern Syria. So its (third-party attested) destruction would be an unbelievable coincidence if that were not the original intent of the raid.

        • bmaz says:

          By the way Professor, I would like to commend you and thank you for your efforts here on this post. Trust me, I know that getting stuff together and getting it into a coherent post is a tad more difficult than it appears (to wit, I still don’t think I have reached that threshold yet). I have no idea what the real story of al-Kibar is, but I would bet pretty good money that it is not exactly what the two main profferors at this point (US, Israel) say it is. If there really was probable cause to suspect what we are being told, wouldn’t you want the international community, and the IAEA, to know and be on board, even if your point was to exhibit that they were not up to the task? But when you have no credibility whatsoever, and at this point there is damn little for these profferors, and you then not only hide the ball, but blow it to smithereens so nobody can dissect it, you are simply not entitled to any trust on your statements. And that is what they will get from me; the only thing I am convinced of is that we aren’t getting the full truth.

  15. wavpeac says:

    The map is only as accurate as the map maker. The map is not the territory. I love this site because the folks on it don’t live in flatland. I fear our current administration lives in flatland. Sees nothing but the two dimensional. (or worse yet, understands fully the nature of the discussion but uses it for evil means…otherwise known as sociopathic.)

    Two dimensional thinking is the most dangerous thing that human beings do. And today the stakes are higher than before. Unfortunately, it is very easy to lead other flatlanders, they are perhaps the most easily led.

    What a juicy and frightening read. I fear the solution is far more complex than even the problem. I don’t know that the Eckardt Tolle’s of the world can “pop” the light on for the majority of human beings who are blind to the asymetrical relationship. What is not happening, instead of what is. The pattern of nots, instead of the pattern of “is”.

    I fear our brains have not evolved fast enough to stop the maddness. Have you ever had a discussion with someone lacking the capacity to see it?? It is extremely time consuming to reach them, or educate them in regard to a multilinear discussion. But lead with a dichotomous judgment and they take it to their grave.


  16. wavpeac says:

    Einstein presented a dichotomous thought that has some validity and that is: We cannot prepare for war while simultaneously seeking peace.

    The United States and Israel share a power and control paradigm. That is that as long as power and control are viewed as a legitimate means of seeking an objective, the violence will continue.

    No one on this earth is actively seeking peace by changing the paradigm. Instead we maintain our power and control paradigm and wonder why we cannot be succesful at cultivating peace.

    War has costs, many of which we can not see because of our denial about them.

    Peace has costs many of which we fear more than the consequences of war.

  17. GulfCoastPirate says:

    PeterPierce wrote:

    ‘…Arafat squandered a colossal opportunity for peace, and as most of the Middle East leaders do, he pissed on his people and educational opportunities for them, who lived in squalor while he and his coterie drained their money’

    Which brings up a couple of questions:

    1. Can you think of another leader of a country other than one in conflict with Israel that would have been offered and expected to accept a deal of this type? It was a disgraceful deal.

    2. Why didn’t the Israelis, if they really wanted a deal, simply offer what was outlined in the discussions previous to this meeting? My understanding is Arafat had already made it known this type of deal wasn’t one he would accept and he was brought to Camp David under the understanding he would be offered a deal he could accept. How could it be his fault?

    3. Since the US doesn’t have the capability to control the countries outside Israel’s immedaite borders and neither do the Isrealis (Iraq and Lebanon)won’t the Arab states eventually get a much better deal as they arm themselves in a way to confront the Isrealis in a nonconventional manner? As an example, it’s my understanding Hezbollah nuetralized those multi hundred million dollar Israeli tanks with $2000 shoulder fired rockets. As the Arabs arm themselves further in this fashion (they can hide lots and lots of small rockets with increasing destructive power and accuracy) how can one assume they made a mistake at Camp David when it’s almost a certainty the Isrealis will find it increasingly difficult to project power/control of populations outside their immediate borders?

    • PetePierce says:

      1. Can you think of another leader of a country other than one in conflict with Israel that would have been offered and expected to accept a deal of this type? It was a disgraceful deal.

      GCP–How was it a disgraceful deal if you don’t mind? Do you really believe that Israel couldn’t take out Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran this morning if they thought that was the best course of action and wasn’t crazy? I guarantee you that if any of those countries currently had Israel’s weaponry, Air Force’s capability, and electronic detection and jamming technology and computer savvy they’d be doing that to Israel as we speak.

      Israel’s response was very measured–incredibly so given the debate within Israel as to how to respond and given the kidnapping of their soldiers and the incessant fatal missles being lobbed into Israel.

      BTW–do you mind documenting for me the Israeli suicide bombers that have killed civilians in Iran, Syria, Gaza, and Palestinian territory vs. individuals from those territories who have bombed Israeli busses, schools, restaurants, and marketplace.

      I anxiously await your inventory there.

      • GulfCoastPirate says:

        PetePierce wrote:

        ‘GCP–How was it a disgraceful deal if you don’t mind?’

        Israel didn’t return to the 67 borders
        No right of return
        No control of their own military, airspace, water or borders

        Need I go on?

        Their soldiers weren’t ‘kidnapped’. They were captured outside Israeli territory as the intial reports (not later reports scrubbed by Israel) indicated. If they can’t get a couple soldiers back how to you propose they would be able to pacify whole countries?

        No, I don’t believe Israel could take out any of the people/places you mention. Yes, their Air Force could do a lot of damage but the Israelis no more have the capability of controling events on the ground in those places than the US does in Iraq. If they could do so they would have already done it.

        If those countries had the same weaponry there would already be peace. War is usually caused by an imbalance and not a balance of power between respective states.

  18. Hugh says:

    Lets see a possible nuclear reactor but

    No apparent fuel for it
    No reprocessing facility to extract plutonium
    No evidence for a design for a plutonium weapon
    No evidence of electronic timers for such a weapon
    No evidence of ability to machine the plutonium
    No evidence of how such a weapon would be tested
    No evidence of how it would be miniaturized into a warhead
    No apparent launch vehicle

    What bothers me is that one element of a complicated program is being substituted for the whole. It seems that all we have any evidence for is some concrete and some pictures of some concrete, maybe. To my mind that is the easy part. For all of the difficult stuff we have no real evidence at all.

    • Professor Foland says:

      I that indeed all the elements you list are missing; which is exactly why neither I, nor even DNI, expressed an opinion on whether this is part of a weapons program.

      On the other hand, no matter how you cut it, you’re supposed to declare your nuclear facilities to IAEA, and this facility was not declared.

      The apparent lack of fuel does not trouble me greatly. The magnox design uses natural uranium, which is not all that difficult to come by. (Though I am worried that this whole episode is going to revive the wingnut “Saddam sent his nukes to Syria!” theme.)

      I disagree a little bit that all we’ve seen are pictures of concrete. We’ve seen pictures of highly-reinforced concrete, specifically formed steel reactor pressure vessel parts (with, for instance, large inlet ports and a rebar interface), and rod-head ports.

      PP–I can understand Israel is a small country, just as I understand Syria is. And I can see any one of them deciding that they have to take matters in their own hands to survive. I can see leaders of any of the nations–Israel, Syria, Iran–honestly believing it was their responsibility to their people to develop a nuclear program. To me it’s a wonder they didn’t all long ago arm up.

  19. klynn says:

    Nice details and links Prof F. Many thanks for the timeline notation.

    A piece I would add to my timeline in terms of asking the “Why Now?” is this op ed which was “ready to go,” so to speak, for Newsweek on April 24th, 2008. Written by Lugar and Nunn.

    In recent years the United States has focused most of its attention on military action in Iraq and Afghanistan and on thwarting terrorists around the globe. These are important projects. But the world remains awash with poorly controlled nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and materials. To be sure, there has been important progress with regard to securing weapons and related material in the former Soviet Union: under the 15-year-old Nunn-Lugar program, for instance, 7,000 nuclear warheads have been deactivated and hundreds of ballistic missiles dismantled.

    These problems can’t be unilaterally solved by the United States. Presidents Bush and Putin should lay the foundations for a solution together. But achieving one will require commitment from their successors. Proliferation has already moved onto the U.S. public’s agenda. A president who acts boldly on these initiatives will have the people’s support— and will make the world a safer place.

    (An “ouch” for Bush)

    Now many will have strong opinions on Lugar and Nunn; however, my comments will focus on Lugar and stem from my minor participation in the 1986 Nuclear Testing Talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland as well as a number of other significant disarmament talks in session during this time. Briefly, Lugar has a committed career to Foreign Relations, Energy Initiatives (beyond petroleum) and disarmament. Recently, he has walked a careful line with his party and this past year has been the voice of beginning “cracks” in his party. I do not see him following Bush-Cheney per se but many may take me to task on that concept. He’s careful in how he crafts his messages as of late.

    Read the Op-Ed. Think about the release date. Look at the links. Nothing about Syria, everything about North Korea and Iran.

    Now these run today:

    BEIJING — China and North Korea pledged Monday to work together to kick-start stalled six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear program, China’s state news agency said.…..00785.html

    and this

    TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran will hand over to Russia a package of proposals designed to defuse a nuclear row with world powers, an Iranian official said on Monday without giving details.

    Iran said this month it would soon unveil ideas to help end the dispute over its nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at producing atomic bombs, an allegation Tehran denies.

    Tehran has been hit by three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006 for defying a U.N. demand to halt sensitive nuclear work.…..00255.html

    Are we getting this? Today, news reports state China to “work with North Korea through diplomatic channels…Russia to work with Iran through diplomatic channels… And last week, we deliver the non-diplomatic news presentation. Goodness.

    US and Israel looking like the S.O.B.’s of diplomacy irt curtailing nuclear ambitions and addressing economic development needs.

    Part of the “provenance” is the clear politics and international strategic alliances, as well as the lack there of – which Lugar is trying to address between the lines despite the Op-Ed being what Lugar is famous for, “Letters To The Next President.”

    Lugar effectively ties in Russia’s need and the US’s need to remain compliant with past treaties and inspections.

    The next president should also help establish an international nuclear-fuel bank in order to discourage the proliferation of uranium-enrichment plants (facilities that can be used to make reactor fuel or bombs). A fuel bank would help close the loophole in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—which allows civilian enrichment—that Iran is trying to exploit. The United States should convince other countries that they need not build their own enrichment capabilities; they can get fuel instead at reasonable prices from the uranium fuel bank, all under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    Finally, important work remains to be done in Russia. The United States and Russia have worked well together under the Nunn-Lugar program. But vast stocks of weapons and materials remain unsecured and undisclosed. For instance, Russia has so far refused even to discuss its tactical nuclear weapons, which are particularly terrorist-friendly because they are portable and usually stored close to potential flash points. Moscow also won’t open to inspection four of its former military bioweapons labs, and bureaucratic roadblocks continue to thwart plans to dispose of 34 metric tons of dangerous, long-lived plutonium.

    Lugar gives a working solution to those ME and Asian nations stating they have a right to develop Nuclear energy. He does not say “NO!” He gives a working global solution and imparts the need for the US and Russia to take the lead to the formation of fuel bank which would safely track what “kind of fuel is being developed.

    In terms of thinking out loud…Interesting big picture going on here. It would be interesting to find out what Russia got their hands on intel-wise about the US military through their Israeli double-agent… I’m looking forward to our updated report on our military logistics in terms of nuclear related concerns.

    • klynn says:

      BTW, the UN IAEA supports the concepts of a Fuel Bank……..00615.html

      A nuclear “fuel bank” – where the IAEA administers a nuclear fuel reserve – is among the proposals. A fuel reserve would assure a back-up supply for power reactors throughout the world on a non-discriminatory, non-political basis reducing the need for countries to develop their own uranium enrichment technologies at a time when concerns about nuclear proliferation are growing. Most government and industry experts agree that the commercial fuel market functions well in meeting current demand. Since this would be a back-up or reserve mechanism, it would be designed inherently in a way not to disrupt the existing commercial market in nuclear fuels.

      “I want to make sure that every country that is a bona fide user of nuclear energy, and that is fulfilling its non-proliferation obligations, is getting fuel,” said IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. “It is not asking any State to give up its rights under NPT.”

      Knowing how upset El Baradai is with the US and Israel, I would say the Lugar-Nunn op-ed is also a “conciliatory bone” to El Baradai stating between the lines, “We’re not all crazies over here in the US.”

  20. Hugh says:


    What makes you think Israel has sincerely sought peace since 1948 with the Palestinians? Did they allow any Palestinians to return to their homes in Israel after the 1948 war? If they were interested in peace, why did they start building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 war? Why do they continue to do so? Having been the occupying power for more than 40 years, why did not they not promote the economic development of the territories? Where are the Arab universities to rival with those of Tel Aviv? Where are the schools, industries, housing, and roads? What was done with the water resources? It seems a very curious kind of peace you refer to.

    You also make mention of Israel’s precarious situation. This is a country with 200-300 nuclear weapons and the best conventional forces in the region, other than ours in Iraq and the Gulf. The history of the Middle East over the last 6 decades would rather indicate that those countries in a precarious situation are pretty much all the countries in the region except Israel.

    • PetePierce says:

      What makes you think Israel has sincerely sought peace since 1948 with the Palestinians? Did they allow any Palestinians to return to their homes in Israel after the 1948 war? If they were interested in peace, why did they start building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 war? Why do they continue to do so? Having been the occupying power for more than 40 years, why did not they not promote the economic development of the territories? Where are the Arab universities to rival with those of Tel Aviv? Where are the schools, industries, housing, and roads? What was done with the water resources? It seems a very curious kind of peace you refer to.

      Hugh– later on I want to respond to some of the points you raised/and others recently here when I’ll have more time to do them the justice they deserve.

      No doubt Israel has far and away more sophisticated weaponry, electronics for detection and jamming (from us as well as their own innovations which like many of those in medicine we gain from as well) in contrast to some of the crappy equipment we have given whatever is characterized as the Iraqi army.

      And there is an issue that the people of the US–the so-called electorate focused on Jerimiah Wright who IMHO acquitted himself well at the National Press Club this morning(I enjoyed him hitting the White Mistress of Ceremonies as to her superficiality along with the rest of MSM) and I’m white. White America sure has bitch slapped itself in misconstuing Reverand Jerimiah Wright and so have Hillary Clinton/Howard Wolfson with her silence trying to capitalize on it–but soon people will realize just hwo systemically she and Bill Clinton have bitch slapped her campaign flying straight into the ground). This is also a morning where in Crawford v. Marion County Election and in Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita upheld very conservative Judge Richard Posner’s 7th Circuit opinion 7-3 with Ginsburg, Breyer and Souter dissented in a big loss for the Democratic party, ACLU, and the NAACP and a win for all those who strongly support McCain including one Democratic candidate. It was very surprising to see one of my huge faves, Justice Stevens using one of his draws for a majority opinion in this way but he did. Crawford v. Marion County Election Bd. (07-21)
      and analysis is here.
      But I had to respond quickly when you said that all the countries but Israel are in a precarious situation. Surely you don’t believe that. I can’t remember where it is you live at the moment but, wherever it is, you’re not vulnerable to weapons within 100 miles that can eliminate your city or state within minutes (unless and there well could be cells with dirty bombs are lurking). I’m not sure how you believe Israel isn’t vulnerable to and doesn’t receive incoming fatal missles nearly every single week as prescient as you are, and as engaged and informed as you have been as to issues and your excellent list.

      I can’t wait to respond later to the question as to what makes me think that Israel has been seeking peace since 1948 and for that matter hasn’t been an invaluable help to us in countless situations.

      I will do this though, and am glad to have this thread as a springboard. I will hit Borders and Barnes and Noble and pull the best books I can find off their shelves and try to tweak some of my accumulated opinions on the ME in general and justification for Israeli positions in particular and I will try to hit some decent “middle east blogs” and search NYT/WaPo and Amazon etc. as well.

      Since there have been about 3 people calling me to task in support not for Israel’s Iraqi run up intelligence but for my support of Israel’s position in response to what I perceive as agressors who want to destroy Israel and never want peace and stability in the region both because they hate Israel and I know this sounds like a potential conflation or over-simplification perhaps to Marcy, they hate us as well.

      I would strongly welcome any links or current book recommendations anyone has that they have read that they think will better educate me, and I will try to read them all.

      I would welcome threads undertaking critical analysis of Israel’s position that would educate me.

      I hope Marcy doesn’t think I’m trying to veer this thread OT or hijack which is not my intention but I am anxious to see anyone butress claims that Israel has not wanted peace/that Israel seeks to destroy other countries or cultures, or that perhaps Palistine/Arab nations have excelled medically, educationally, computer HDW or software wise and Israel has not. This will really be interesting to me because I firmly believe Arafat drove his people down a rathole into educational bankruptcy and squalor when he could have chosen to do otherwise. I also think one of the more constructive efforts that Bill Clinton made were his attempts to bring peace in the region although I want to see both of them off TV sooner and not later.

      • selise says:

        I would strongly welcome any links or current book recommendations anyone has that they have read that they think will better educate me, and I will try to read them all.

        best starting place i know of is jeff halper. highly recommended.

        • PetePierce says:

          best starting place i know of is jeff halper. highly recommended.

          Thanks much Selise.

          I’m reading all links. I also haven’t dug into current articles and books analyzing the ME, particularly Israel/Palestine impass, and I will try. Then I’ll catchup with High and a couple others, and do my best.

          • selise says:

            it’s really tough because there are two competing versions that are contradictory in many aspects.

            imo, the interesting thing is that the peace activists (both palestinian and israeli) who are committed to the universality of human rights are not especially contradictory. so, i’d start with them and then move out from there. have lots more sources if you want. but, like i said, i think halper is a very good place to start.

            i commend your willingness to reconsider the evidence – just a warning though, you may need to see for yourself. nothing i’d read really prepared me for what i saw (fall of 2002).

  21. klynn says:

    Finally, I see the Lugar-Nunn Op-Ed serves as a policy “SOS” to our allies beyond the one in the ME.

    I hope they get the message and step up quite quickly and serve as a vehicle of holding the US accountable. Especially, because EW is going on a trip and I don’t want #@%& to hit the fan internationally. I sure would like some domestic fan mess that would save our country though.

  22. LS says:

    I believe that they made up the whole shebang. All of it. The images look just like the “cartoons” presented pre-Iraq invasion. Pure and utter concoction. In fact, David Kay said on CNN the other day that some of the pictures looked like they could have been photoshopped. Duh.

  23. Hugh says:

    I think a good thought experiment is to reverse the roles and see if one’s opinions and judgments remain the same, that is would you have the same views if the situations of the Palestinians and the Israelis were reversed?

    • PetePierce says:

      It’s always a good exercise and I hope you will pick up Richard North Patterson’s book to participate in that exercise as I did and the author did admirably which is in paperback and relatively inexpensive. I don’t think it will waste your time.

      Exile Excerpt

      Random House Exile Synopsis

      • Hugh says:

        I took a quick look. It is rather awfully written. I can only invite you to reconsider the problem, perhaps viewing it as if two other countries not so emotionally charged for you were involved. You keep saying that Israel is threatened but what does this mean? There hasn’t been an existential threat to Israel since 1948. With its acquiring of nuclear weapons in the 1960s, even the hint of an existential threat evaporated. The Federation of American Scientists puts the Israeli arsenal at between 100-200 weapons.

        Somehow you are able to separate the Israelis keeping in thrall a subject population for more than 40 years with resistance to Israel, its occupation, and the noxious climate that these have produced. That Israel has been able to sell the narrative of its being threatened for decades even as the power balance continues to tilt further and further its way is a great accomplishment in the art of propaganda. But all of these arguments can be turned on their ends. How would you as an Arab feel living close to a state like Israel that has this large military machine that it uses on its neighbors, that it uses on a daily basis against a captive population it has abused for 40 years keeping it poor, denying it basic human rights, taking its resources and its lands? Well as an Arab you might look on all this and say to yourself whatever Israel does want, it isn’t peace, surrender perhaps, but not peace.

        • PetePierce says:


          You couldn’t have appreciated a scintilla of the research that went into this book as to the history of middle east conflicts with your quick look. You should sit down and read the book or spend at least a half hour reading the book at random places that have paragraphs of narrative of the history of the Israeli-Palestininan conflict before you pass judgment, but it doesn’t look like you will.

          I took a quick look. It is rather awfully written. I can only invite you to reconsider the problem, perhaps viewing it as if two other countries not so emotionally charged for you were involved.

          I suppose reasonable people can disagree. I picked up an Honors Degree in English along with my other pre-med Chem major. I also wrote a masters level thesis for the English department, and have a pretty fair idea of what constitutes awful writing. Much of mine could be better on threads like this one, but I’m not polishing a position paper, novel or non-fiction.

          Much of what is delivered on your TV by highly paid talking heads and media is horribly written and horribly spoken. Most of them are graduates of some college, but they skipped elementary school grammar and sentence construction, and are markedly vocabulary challenged. Patterson’s books aren’t.

          I don’t believe Richard North Patterson’s book is “rather awfully written” at all. No one I know is pushing “trial lawyer who done it fiction” for the Nobel Prize in literature.

          Without having the time to invoke the course I took in Existentialism for one of my minors, let me ask you something. You say Israel hasn’t had an existential threat since it’s existence. Many mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives have seen their closest family members blown up at venues like wedddings right in front of them. How many of your local friends and neighbors have this going on as a daily basis (existential exismential)? If the answer is in the affirmative, let me know where you’re living. I’ll try to get some real security for your town instead of the bullshit proferred by the liars in your DOJ, FBI, and West Wing.

        • PetePierce says:

          Sunday New York Times Book Review of Richard North Patternson’s Exile

          No one is arguing that this doesn’t use well worn trial layer mystery potboiler jargon. So by other standards if you’re applying them, you’re not going to be impressed by the writing.

          However, my point in bringing up this potboiler that was on the non-fiction best seller lists including Amazon’s and NYT’s was for the historical accounts within it. I thought Patterson did an admirable job representing the conflict and you’ve yet to read what he did.

          And heyhey–the Firedoggie Lake’s candidate for a third term, Mr. 3AM in the White House him/herself–Billary Clinton gave it a dustjacket–”Astonishing, Hugely entertaining.”

          Clinton claims to have participated in the Israeli Palistinian peace process–under sniper fire at Camp David of course.

  24. klynn says:


    This made me nearly choke on my breakfast. Are they really using this Syria episode to retract the crystal-clear statements in the Iran NIE?

    (my bold)

    Choked on mine. This was a key turn in the presentation.

  25. PetePierce says:

    I got into a hurry and when I said I thought Jeremiah Wright acquitted himself well despite the ignorant press elitists (including people like Andrea Mitchell Multimillion dollar Greenspan who have never listened to him or looked at sick baby after sick baby in poverty but merely seen his picture and feigned horror the way they did when they were 3-4 years of age and something scared them).

    Wright is much to smart to not have refuted any suggestion that HIV was some kind of government plot against a particular group of people. Comments even close to that don’t help him, and in that area and perhaps that area alone his response to a question was ridiculously flip and inaccurate.

    One can certainly point out that individual states are stupidly responding to pandemic flu protection by spending millions of dollars on Tamiflu like one large Southern state I know well, when the NEJM and JAMA and mainstream infectious disease literature are replete that Tamiflu doesn’t touch H5N1 and induces resistant strains quickly, but that’s another topic. It certainly shows lack of leadership and medical ignorance though, on the part of the Bush cabinet and the Bush FDA and its leadership including the Bush appointed M.D. who knows better.

  26. rkilowatt says:

    Realpolitic, often the actual basis for historical events, actions and failures to act, is rarely exposed or acknowledged. The misnamed “Israeli-Palestinian problem” is a deliberate confusion of terms to misdirect attention. It precludes discovery and understanding the Realpolitic. Clearly there are other players involved with their own agendas. Realpolitic more closely leads to the real “why” that underlies observations.

    So to understand Realpolitic, best to find an example. Here’s a rare look at Realpolitic that can be easily and quickly studied. Then review the 1st paragraph, above.
    [Excerpt:] Office Memorandum · “UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT …however, a careful study of all factors involved compels the conclusion that it would not be in the best interests of the U.S. or the Bureau[FBI] to attempt to use [xxxx](S) information for prosecution.”…

  27. Watson says:

    [With respect for PetePierce, and appreciation for the manner in which he is discussing this sensitive topic:]

    In the 1930s and 40s, Jews were in extremis. They cannot be blamed for commandeering a lifeboat in that storm.

    On the other hand, Palestinian Arabs cannot be blamed for fighting for their land, which the WW2 victors awarded to the surviving Jews as compensation for the Nazi crimes.

    One can reasonably say that for the first four decades of the Israel-Palestine conflict, both sides were right. For the last twenty years, however, there has been a solution possible, pursuant to UN Res. 242. The Israeli governments have rejected it.

    So it is fair to say that Israel is now on the wrong side of a war of choice.

    • GulfCoastPirate says:

      Watson wrote:

      ‘On the other hand, Palestinian Arabs cannot be blamed for fighting for their land, which the WW2 victors awarded to the surviving Jews as compensation for the Nazi crimes’

      That’s the problem right there in a nutshell isn’t it? White, christian Europeans committed a group of crimes and non-christian, non-Europeans paid the price for those crimes. What did the Palestinians do to deserve that treatment?

      Then, to make matters worse from the Arab/Muslim perspective, an asymmetry of power was created by the same group of people who originally committed the crimes.

      The Israelis, at this point, deserve no sympathy. They need to make the deal along the lines of the 67 border or they need to be cut loose by the West.

  28. PetePierce says:

    You know I welcome the chance to try to better myself here. Like almost anyone who hits a lot of sites and reads several newspapers, I see some of the events, but I haven’t tried to read deeply for a good while, and one of the problems is there is just so much and there are so many points of views.

    I think anyone will understand though the reaction of many people who are sympathetic to Israel, because they do have a democracy and I could go on and on and so could people who disagree with me but it sure seems they have taken an awful lot of hits. I know this sounds simplistic and banal, but I’m not the Lone Ranger here.

    I have lots of respect for Hugh, but despite the fact that Richard North Patterson has made lots of money writing books that are legal thrillers, he is an attorney who was the #2 AG in a state and also SEC Liason with major federal investigations.

    I’m a student here trying to sort out the ME, but I think he painted a balanced picture of a difficult subject with no axes to grind besides selling his legal thriller and I recommend that everyone takes a look at his “historical” legal thriller.

  29. klynn says:

    This editor at the Guardian is worth a read…

    If Israel’s motives were clear, the reasons of those in Washington who pushed for the release of the video evidence yesterday were less straightforward. They have nothing to do with the Middle East and a lot to do with North Korea, which appears to be on the verge of a deal to disclose its nuclear assets.…..orea.syria

  30. klynn says:

    And this:…..ia.nuclear

    However, Isis said it was unclear where Syria would have acquired the uranium fuel necessary to power the reactor.

    “The lack of any identified source of this fuel raises questions about when the reactor could have operated, despite evidence that it was nearing completion at the time of the attack,” an Isis report said.

    It also argued the evidence should not be used as a justification for military action against Syria or to derail “six-party talks” over North Korea’s nuclear programme.

    (BTW #71 should read, this editorial at the Guardian…I’m too sleepy!) Have a great trip Mr. and Mrs. EW

  31. bmaz says:

    Professor Foland- If you wander back to your post here. I saw Jimmy Carter on Hardball tonight, and he pretty clearly stated, upon Matthews asking why the Syrians were working on a nuclear facility with the North Koreans, “I don’t know if that is true at all”. He didn’t go any further as far as an explanation, but he does know al-Assad pretty well, and was, at one time at least, a nuclear engineer, so he has some credibility at least. Don’t know what to make of it in the overall scheme of this story, but i thought it was interesting and so I relate it to you for whatever value you may find in it.

  32. Anna says:

    Last night on Chris Matthews Hardball, Former President Jimmy Carter oh so politely smacked Matthew upside the head when Matthews repeated unsubstantiated claims about a Syrian Nuclear weapons facility. When Matthews asked Carter if Syria was ready to acknowledge the existence of Israel Carter stated that 22 middle east nations had all ready done so on 3 occasions.

    Watch Carter stick give it to Matthews.…..8#24374838

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