U.S. intelligence released a dramatic video last Thursday, supposedly taken by an Israeli spy, that purportedly showed North Korean technicians helping build a nuclear reactor in Syria.
The reactor was destroyed seven months ago by Israeli warplanes.
Until now Israel and the U.S. have remained silent about the attack. Syria claimed a warehouse was hit, but curiously said nothing more about what was an act of war. Washington offered no proof the reactor, if it was one, would have produced weapons rather than electric power. U.S. and Israeli intelligence have long stated Syria had no nuclear weapons capabilities.
Vice-President Dick Cheney and fellow neocons forced the CIA to release the James Bondish video in an effort to sabotage an impending six-nation agreement to end North Korea's nuclear program. They bitterly oppose the deal for being too soft on Pyongyang. Neocons long have worried the possibility of North Korea selling nuclear technology to Arab states posed a potential threat to Israel.
This mysterious imbroglio also is being used by Israel's rightwing Likud Party, a close ally of U.S. neocons, to attack political rival Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party.
Olmert has been involved in Turkish-brokered, back-channel peace talks with Syria for years. Likud and its U.S. allies are determined to sabotage any deal with Damascus that would return the Golan Heights, which Israel conquered in the 1967 war, to Syria. The Likudniks also sought to derail efforts by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to encourage the Israeli-Syrian talks, and get Israel and the militant Palestinian movement, Hamas, to talk.
Under the purported deal, Israel would return the Golan Heights in exchange for Damascus' agreement to sever its close links with Iran, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Hamas. Syria also would grant Israel important water rights. The fate of up to 250,000 Syrian inhabitants driven from Golan remains uncertain.
Israel, backed by the Bush administration, certainly has been using the carrot of a return of Golan to entice Syria away from Iran. But there is also a big stick: Ever-stronger threats of a U.S.-Israeli attack on Syria. Israel's September attack on Syria was a clear warning.
Cheney and fellow militarists are pushing hard for attacks on Syria, Lebanon and Iran before President George W. Bush leaves office. Neocons have flocked to Sen. John McCain's banner -- in spite of Hillary Clinton's vow to "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. They believe U.S. attacks on Arab states and/or Iran would prove decisive in winning the presidency for McCain this November. A U.S. attack on Syria could well be the first step of a broader air war against Lebanon and Iran.
Meanwhile, Cheney and allies in Congress and the media are also using the Syrian reactor hubbub to undermine efforts by the U.S. state department, a primary hate object for neocons, to implement the nuclear weapons freeze with North Korea. State department boss Condoleezza Rice has run for cover, leaving her chief negotiator with North Korea to twist in the wind.
As the latest furor builds over the nefarious North Korean, we should remember that this scare story comes from the same Washington fib factory that manufactured all the alarms and "evidence" about Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida.
North Koreans are pretty scary, but their nuclear capabilities and the threat they supposedly pose have been exaggerated. South Korea and European intelligence agencies, for example, are cautious about Washington's claims about North Korea and Syria.
The New York Times revealed last week what this column has long said: The Pentagon has duped Americans and Canadians by organizing a bunch of retired U.S. generals -- mislabelled "independent military experts" -- to shill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Watch these rent-a-generals again prostitute themselves on TV by promoting the administration's party line about the great Syrian nuclear menace.
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