Friday, April 25, 2008

Juan Cole: Syria Reactor Story a Diversion;
But From What?

The US and Israel accused Syria on Thursday of building a secret nuclear reactor with North Korean help. There was a lot of innuendo in the press that the reactor was intended for nuclear weapons production. But...


Moreover, while I am against proliferation of nuclear weapons, the idea that the Israelis can just bomb anyone's innocent research or civilian power reactor any time they like for no good reason is scary. The Israelis rejected the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and broke with international consensus to acquire by hook and crook British, French and US nuclear secrets and built dozens, perhaps hundreds of nuclear bombs, provoking the nuclear weapons race in the region.

The real question is the timing of the announcement, since the bombing happened a long time ago. It is suspicious to me that the announcement was made just after a spy for Israel was arrested in the US who had stolen US nuclear secrets. Is it diversionary?


I'd add that former president Jimmy Carter's recent trip to meet with Hamas leaders has put pressure on Israel to come back in a serious way to the negotiating table. Also Hamas's own apparent change in stance on diplomacy, as Helena Cobban discusses.

Bush's own remarks Thursday that he is seeking a viable Palestine that does not look like Swiss cheese revealed some of what the administration must have been pressing the Israelis on in recent months in preparation for Bush's trip in May.

So the timing of the Syria reactor announcement does seem suspicious in Middle East terms. If the US doesn't in fact think there is any evidence that the reactor had weapons implications, then it is really a non story, and releasing it can only be for hoopla reasons...[Open in new window]


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