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March 21, 2009

Certifying Syria's Nuclear Program


by Gordon Prather

The Likudniks, here and abroad, are running scared. Why? Well, it may turn out that President Obama genuinely intends to solve Middle East conflicts peacefully, diplomatically.

For example, Obama just had Secretary of State Clinton send, Jeffrey Feltman, her Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, in company with Dan Shapiro, head of the Middle East Division of the National Security Council Staff, to meet last week with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim and presidential advisor Bothainia Shaaban in Damascus.

According to Feltman, the talks covered "Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Hamas, Iraq" and "Syria's attempts to develop a nuclear program."

Feltman was the Bush-Cheney Ambassador to Israel in 2006 during the Israel-Hezbollah-Hamas war and the associated Israeli unrestricted bombing of Lebanon.

Shapiro was Obama's "emissary" to "Jewish groups" during the presidential campaign and reportedly drafted the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 [.pdf], which contained, among many onerous findings and determinations, the following;

"[T]he United States will not provide any assistance to Syria and will oppose multilateral assistance for Syria until Syria ends all support for terrorism, withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon, and halts the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction and medium- and long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles."

According to Shapiro's Act, if Obama now wishes to normalize relations with Syria, he will have to certify to Congress that

"[T]he Government of Syria has ceased the development and deployment of medium- and long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, is not pursuing or engaged in the research, development, acquisition, production, transfer, or deployment of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, has provided credible assurances that such behavior will not be undertaken in the future, and has agreed to allow United Nations and other international observers to verify such actions and assurances."

Which brings us to the otherwise inexplicable publication this week of a seemingly authoritative "report" by Hans Ruhle in the Swiss daily, Neue Zuercher Zeitung. Ruhle alleges – in the course of "revealing" what retired Iranian general Ali Reza Asghari allegedly told the CIA when he defected back in February, 2007 – that the immediate imperative for the Israeli aerial attack on a site near Al Kabir on September 6, 2007 was that a "North Korean" ship had been "checked" and determined to be carrying "nuclear fuel" to Syria.

Checked? By whom?

Determined? By whom?

Ruhle doesn't say.

But surely, not by the United States or any "concerned state" associated with the Proliferation Security Initiative of Bonkers Bolton, established by President Bush the Younger back in 2003. According to Bolton;

"Our [PSI] goal is to work with other concerned states to develop new means to disrupt the proliferation trade at sea, in the air, and on land. The initiative reflects the need for a more dynamic, proactive approach to the global proliferation problem. It [PSI] envisions partnerships of states working in concert, employing their national capabilities to develop a broad range of legal, diplomatic, economic, military and other tools to interdict threatening shipments of WMD- and missile-related equipment and technologies. To jumpstart this initiative, we have begun working with several close friends and allies to expand our ability to stop and seize suspected WMD transfers."

Surely, therefore, if any of our PSI "partners" had "checked" this ship and "determined" that it was carrying North Korean "nuclear fuel," bound for Syria, along the "axis of evil," it would have seized this shipment.

What then?

Well, at a minimum Bush-Cheney would have informed the International Atomic Energy that their suspicions about North Korea's and Syria's nuclear programs had been vindicated. More likely, with a nuclear "smoking gun" implicating both North Korea and Syria in their possession, Bush-Cheney would have launched wars against both.

But, reportedly, Bush-Cheney refused to even participate in the Israeli raid on the Al Kabir site. A raid for which the Israelis reportedly insisted there could be no delay.

Yet, in April, 2008, the CIA released a detailed computer-simulation based video depicting what they were "convinced" the Syrians – assisted by the North Koreans – had been doing at the Al Kabir site since 2001.

To wit:

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

Now, while the CIA claimed that the alleged reactor was "nearing operational capability" at the time of the Israeli raid, it is important to note that there was no mention whatsoever in their report of the "smoking gun" just now "reported" in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung – the shipment of what was "checked" and "determined" to be North Korean startup "nuclear fuel" for a clone of the North Korean weapons-grade plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon.

The most likely explanation is that neither the CIA – nor any of our PSI partners – had any reason to believe that such a shipment had taken place.

So, why the seemingly inexplicable publication this week of what now seems anything but an authoritative report on nuke weapon collaboration between North Korea and Syria (and funded by Iran)?

Perhaps to make it virtually impossible for President Obama to ever certify to Congress that the Government of Syria "is not pursuing or engaged in the research, development, acquisition, production, transfer, or deployment of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons" and "has agreed to allow United Nations and other international observers to verify" that they are not?

Perhaps, but maybe Hans Ruhle, allegedly a former Chief of the Planning Staff in the German Ministry of Defense, is also an alarmed Likudnik.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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