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Syrian Nukes: the Phantom Menace


Last September 6, Israel bombed a Syrian building at Dair el Zor. In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, little was said in public, by either Israel or Syria, but later the Israelis started claiming that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor. On the radio today (April 25), I heard NPR’s Tom Jelton repeat, as if it were undisputed fact, the US. government claim to have “proof” of a Syrian-North Korean nuclear connection. Now I see that AP writers Pamela Hess and Deb Reichmann have a story headlined “White House says Syria ‘must come clean’ about nuclear work,” while ABC news has a video entitled “Syria’s Nuclear Reactor”.

Are the wonderful mainstream media, who gave us Saddam’s mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction, lying to us again? The answer is yes.

Last fall, journalist Laura Rozen spoke with Joseph Cirincione, director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress. Cirincione says
“In attacking Dair el Zor in Syria on Sept. 6, the Israeli air force wasn’t targeting a nuclear site but rather one of the main arms depots in the country. Dair el Zor houses a huge underground base where the Syrian army stores the long and medium-range missiles it mostly buys from Iran and North Korea. The attack by the Israeli air force coincided with the arrival of a stock of parts for Syria’s 200 Scud B and 60 Scud C weapons.”

Cirincione says that there is a small Syrian nuclear research program, which has been around for 40 years and is going nowhere. “It is a basic research program built around a tiny 30 kilowatt reactor that produced a few isotopes and neutrons. It is nowhere near a program for nuclear weapons or nuclear fuel,” he said. Over a dozen countries have helped Syria develop its nuclear program, including Belgium, Germany, Russia, China and even the United States, by way of training of scientists, he said.

So what is really going on here? Cirincione told the BBC that “This appears to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted ‘intelligence’ to key reporters in order to promote a preexisting political agenda.” The preexisting political agenda may be promoting a war with Syria and/or Iran, or torpedoing negotiations between the US and North Korea. Finally, Cirincione adds ominously “If this sounds like the run-up to the war with Iraq, then it should.”

A big salute to the intrepid Justin Raimundo of the Libertarian website, who had this all figured out last October 15. This column is much indebted to Raimundo and Rozen. For ABC, AP, Tom Jelton and National Pentagon Radio, it’s just another day of journalistic infamy.

JOHN W. FARLEY writes from Henderson, Nevada.





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