"There was no raid here -- we heard nothing,"

The quote above is from Ahmed Mehdi, the Deir ez Zor director of the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, a government agricultural research center and refers to the biggest non-event to ever occur in Syria; the Israeli raid on September 6 that targeted an unknown military installation near the research center.

It is highly unusual not to have any specific information about what exactly the Israeli Air Force was bombing when it swooped into Syrian territory a month ago, undetected by the brand new Russian made air defense network, in a pinpoint strike that evidently destroyed its intended target. Recent speculation, however, has centered around some kind of nuclear material - perhaps from North Korea - that the Israelis believe the Syrians were working with. No one will say if it was fissionable material - weaponized uranium or plutonium - or whether the target was a basic research facility that represented the start of a Syrian nuclear program.

One thing is absolutely certain; Israel saw a threat - perhaps an immediate threat - and acted accordingly.

The raid has Syria all tied up in knots. If they acknowledge it, they look impotent in the face of Israeli military action. But by denying it, they
look like clowns:


On Monday, journalists toured the agricultural center at the government’s invitation to prove, Mr. Mehdi said, that no nuclear weapons program or Israeli attacks occurred there.

“The allegations are completely groundless, and I don’t really understand where all this W.M.D. talk came from,” Mr. Mehdi said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

“There was no raid here — we heard nothing,“ he added.

An entourage of the center’s employees lined up with him to greet the journalists. In a seemingly choreographed display, they nodded in agreement and offered their guests recently picked dates as tokens of hospitality.

They showed off a drab-colored laboratory that they said was used to conduct experiments on drought-resistant crops and recently plowed fields where vegetables and fruits are grown.
Such nonsensical displays fool no one except those already pre-disposed to disbelieve anything coming out of Israel. But the question of American support for the raid continues to puzzle diplomats throughout the region.

Did we or didn't we? Reports soon after the raid indicated that the Israelis came to American intelligence back in July with "proof" that the Syrian facility was a threat. At the time, Washington refused to sign off on a raid citing its own experience in trying to determine if a nation was building a nuclear program.

It is believed that Israel informed Washington early in September that they couldn't wait any longer and were going to attack with or without America's blessing. Some analysts speculate that the highly unusual secrecy regarding exactly what the Israelis were bombing was the price of Washington's acquiesance.

Regardless, the raid has widened the split in the Administration between those who wish to negotiate with Syria and North Korea and those who wish to take a harder line with those two
terrorist states:

US Vice President Dick Cheney and other conservatives in the administration are portraying the Israeli intelligence as credible and argue that it should cause the US to reconsider its diplomatic overtures to Syria and North Korea.

By contrast, the Times reports, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her allies in the White House said they do not believe that the intelligence presented so far merits any change in the American diplomatic approach.

During a breakfast meeting on October 2 at the White House, Rice and chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill, told Bush that the US faced a choice: to continue with the nuclear pact with North Korea as a way to bring it back into the diplomatic fold and give it the incentive to stop proliferating nuclear material; or to return to the administration's previous strategy of isolation, which detractors say left North Korea to its own devices and led it to test a nuclear device last October.

Cheney and National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley also attended the meeting but expressed unease at the decision last week by Bush and Rice to proceed with an agreement to supply the North Koreans with economic aid in return for disabling its nuclear reactor. They argued that the Israeli intelligence demonstrates that North Korea cannot be trusted. They also argue that the US should be prepared to scuttle the agreement unless North Korea admits to its dealing with the Syrians.
The Cheney faction is arguing that if the Israelis are right and the nuclear material they took out last month was from North Korea, it may be that they are seeking to evade the terms of the recently signed agreement by shipping some parts of their nuclear program to Syria. The Rice faction wants to see harder intel before condemning the North Koreans or the Syrians for that matter.

There are just too many unknowns about the raid and what Israel is so concerned about to speculate on where the Administration will end up in this matter. But until someone is willing to talk about what the Israelis discovered at that "agricultural research center" it will remain one of the more fascinating - and in a way frightening - mysteries of our time.
The quote above is from Ahmed Mehdi, the Deir ez Zor director of the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, a government agricultural research center and refers to the biggest non-event to ever occur in Syria; the Israeli raid on September 6 that targeted an unknown military installation near the research center.

It is highly unusual not to have any specific information about what exactly the Israeli Air Force was bombing when it swooped into Syrian territory a month ago, undetected by the brand new Russian made air defense network, in a pinpoint strike that evidently destroyed its intended target. Recent speculation, however, has centered around some kind of nuclear material - perhaps from North Korea - that the Israelis believe the Syrians were working with. No one will say if it was fissionable material - weaponized uranium or plutonium - or whether the target was a basic research facility that represented the start of a Syrian nuclear program.

One thing is absolutely certain; Israel saw a threat - perhaps an immediate threat - and acted accordingly.

The raid has Syria all tied up in knots. If they acknowledge it, they look impotent in the face of Israeli military action. But by denying it, they
look like clowns:


On Monday, journalists toured the agricultural center at the government’s invitation to prove, Mr. Mehdi said, that no nuclear weapons program or Israeli attacks occurred there.

“The allegations are completely groundless, and I don’t really understand where all this W.M.D. talk came from,” Mr. Mehdi said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

“There was no raid here — we heard nothing,“ he added.

An entourage of the center’s employees lined up with him to greet the journalists. In a seemingly choreographed display, they nodded in agreement and offered their guests recently picked dates as tokens of hospitality.

They showed off a drab-colored laboratory that they said was used to conduct experiments on drought-resistant crops and recently plowed fields where vegetables and fruits are grown.
Such nonsensical displays fool no one except those already pre-disposed to disbelieve anything coming out of Israel. But the question of American support for the raid continues to puzzle diplomats throughout the region.

Did we or didn't we? Reports soon after the raid indicated that the Israelis came to American intelligence back in July with "proof" that the Syrian facility was a threat. At the time, Washington refused to sign off on a raid citing its own experience in trying to determine if a nation was building a nuclear program.

It is believed that Israel informed Washington early in September that they couldn't wait any longer and were going to attack with or without America's blessing. Some analysts speculate that the highly unusual secrecy regarding exactly what the Israelis were bombing was the price of Washington's acquiesance.

Regardless, the raid has widened the split in the Administration between those who wish to negotiate with Syria and North Korea and those who wish to take a harder line with those two
terrorist states:

US Vice President Dick Cheney and other conservatives in the administration are portraying the Israeli intelligence as credible and argue that it should cause the US to reconsider its diplomatic overtures to Syria and North Korea.

By contrast, the Times reports, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her allies in the White House said they do not believe that the intelligence presented so far merits any change in the American diplomatic approach.

During a breakfast meeting on October 2 at the White House, Rice and chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill, told Bush that the US faced a choice: to continue with the nuclear pact with North Korea as a way to bring it back into the diplomatic fold and give it the incentive to stop proliferating nuclear material; or to return to the administration's previous strategy of isolation, which detractors say left North Korea to its own devices and led it to test a nuclear device last October.

Cheney and National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley also attended the meeting but expressed unease at the decision last week by Bush and Rice to proceed with an agreement to supply the North Koreans with economic aid in return for disabling its nuclear reactor. They argued that the Israeli intelligence demonstrates that North Korea cannot be trusted. They also argue that the US should be prepared to scuttle the agreement unless North Korea admits to its dealing with the Syrians.
The Cheney faction is arguing that if the Israelis are right and the nuclear material they took out last month was from North Korea, it may be that they are seeking to evade the terms of the recently signed agreement by shipping some parts of their nuclear program to Syria. The Rice faction wants to see harder intel before condemning the North Koreans or the Syrians for that matter.

There are just too many unknowns about the raid and what Israel is so concerned about to speculate on where the Administration will end up in this matter. But until someone is willing to talk about what the Israelis discovered at that "agricultural research center" it will remain one of the more fascinating - and in a way frightening - mysteries of our time.