View Full Version : White House Says North Korea Gave Syria Nuclear Help

04-25-2008, 08:15 AM
White House says North Korea gave Syria nuclear help


Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:50pm BST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is convinced that North Korea helped Syria build a secret nuclear reactor, the White House said on Thursday in an accusation that may complicate its diplomacy both on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

"We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria's covert nuclear activities," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.

"We have good reason to believe that reactor, which was damaged beyond repair on September 6 of last year, was not intended for peaceful purposes," she said.

The statement was issued after intelligence officials briefed U.S. lawmakers about the Syrian nuclear facility that was destroyed by Israel last year.

The United States did not give Israel any "green light" to strike the suspected nuclear reactor, a U.S. official said.

Syrian ambassador Imad Moustapha denied the U.S. charge. "This is a fantasy," he told CNN after being briefed by the U.S. State Department on the U.S. intelligence.

"I hope the truth will be revealed to everybody," Moustapha said. "This will be a major embarrassment to the U.S. administration for a second time -- they lied about Iraqi WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) and they think they can do it again."

Washington's main justification for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion was that Iraq had stockpiles of WMDs. Such weapons have not been found.

The White House statement, which did not mention Israel, said Syria had been building a "covert nuclear reactor" in its eastern desert that was capable of producing plutonium.

The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency was not informed about the construction and after it was destroyed, Syria "moved quickly to bury evidence of its existence," the White House said.

A U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said that among the intelligence the United States has was an image of what appeared to be people of Korean descent at the facility.

However, the official stressed this image was only part of a wider array of information gathered from multiple sources on the suspected cooperation between Syria and North Korea.

The U.S. charges come several months after North Korea missed a December 31 deadline to make a declaration of its nuclear programs in a deal over its nuclear programs with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea.

Under the deal North Korea promised to disclose all of its nuclear programs and, ultimately, to abandon them and any nuclear weapons it may have.

U.S. President George W. Bush has lost the support of some fellow Republicans on the North Korea deal, but the Democrats who control Congress by and large appear to be more supportive of the path he is following.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition he not be named said the administration had told North Korea that the disclosures were coming and argued that they increased the pressure on Pyongyang to produce a complete declaration.

The United States has long been "seriously concerned" about North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its proliferation activities and Pyongyang's cooperation with Syria was a "dangerous manifestation" of those activities, the White House said.

"The construction of this (Syrian) reactor was a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the region and the world," Perino said.

That development also underscored the international community was right to be concerned about the nuclear activities of Iran and "must take further steps" to confront that challenge, she said.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, bluntly said after a briefing on the issue that the administration had lost the trust of many lawmakers.

"This administration has no credibility on North Korea," he told Reuters. "A lot of us are beginning to become concerned that the administration is moving away from getting a solid policy solution to 'let's make a deal' -- regardless of how bad it may be."

(Additional Reporting by Paul Eckert and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Patricia Wilson and Frances Kerry)

Administration renews claims of Syrian nuclear weapons program

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Administration_renews_claims_of_Syrian_nuclear_042 4.html

Muriel Kane
Published: Thursday April 24, 2008

U.S. intelligence officials on Thursday were showing members of Congress a videotape and other evidence supporting their case that Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance before it was bombed by Israeli planes last year. Intelligence officials who have seen the evidence consider it "extremely compelling," a US official said, adding that it was gleaned from a variety of sources, not just Israeli intelligence.

Syria has denied the administration's allegations, and the videotape apparently was just a collection of still photos from inside the facility.

The administration's presentation represents a renewal of claims about an alleged Syrian nuclear weapons program which were widely reported in the mainstream media last fall, following the Israeli bombing. Those allegations were never substantiated, and although new evidence appears to have been added to strengthen the case, skepticism remains strong.

Political commentator Steve Clemons suggests that "[Vice President] Cheney's minions are pushing Congress to sponge up Israeli intelligence assessments about purported Syria-North Korea cooperation on a now destroyed, alleged nuclear site. There are many who doubt Israel's assessments in the U.S. intelligence community. A consensus has built that North Korea and Syria were cooperating on some machine tool operation to retrofit increasingly sophisticated short range missiles with new capacity, perhaps air burst capacity that could potentially deliver biological or chemical agents."

Last September, RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna was the first to report that the Syrians had been engaged in attempting to add chemical warheads to their stock of "older generation" North Korean missiles and quoted former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro as saying that the building which was bombed was "absolutely not a nuclear weapons facility."

In a follow-up article, Alexandrovna added that several of her sources saw Dick Cheney's hand behind behind the leak of stories about a Syria nuclear program, stories which were not supported by the intelligence community. According to one official, "We don't have any independent intelligence that it was a nuclear facility -- only the assertions by the Israelis and some ambiguous satellite photography from them that shows a building, which the Syrians admitted was a military facility.”

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, also told Alexandrovna, " I do not believe that the real story, if it is ever known, will have anything at all to do with nuclear weapons." Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has expressed skepticism towards the story as well.

The pattern of selective leaks, which appears to be typical of Cheney's operations, is as apparent with the new evidence as it was last fall. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East subcommittee, accuses the Bush administration of "bizarre behavior" in giving information to reporters who lack security clearances while restricting what it presents to Congress. "This is the selective control of information that led us to war in Iraq," Ackerman stated.

The renewal of claims about the Syrian facility come as the Bush administration is pressuring North Korea to acknowledge its alleged nuclear proliferation as part of a disarmament agreement reached last year. However, Steve Clemons points out that Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be trying to build a case against Syria, as well.

"A source reported to me yesterday that in the last two weeks, Cheney held forth at a meeting on Iraq WMDs and insisted that they were real and still out there," Clemons reveals. "Cheney believes that Syria has them -- and has been watching closely intelligence streams from a secret 'black SIGINT base' that the US has placed in the mountains near the intersection of the Syrian, Turkish, and Iraqi borders."

04-25-2008, 05:51 PM
Cheney camp 'behind Syrian reactor claim'


Posted Fri Apr 25, 2008 12:04pm AEST

US Government allegations that North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear reactor have been greeted with scepticism because of their timing.

Israeli jets bombed the alleged site in Syria's eastern desert last September.

Today, after months of whispers, the White House publicly claimed that the target of the strike was a nuclear reactor.

It said the reactor was being built with North Korean help and was not intended for peaceful purposes.

US intelligence officials said the reactor had been close to becoming operational when it was destroyed.

But Mike Chinoy, from the Pacific Council on International Policy, says the claim needs to be taken in its political context, as North Korea's denuclearisation reaches a critical stage.

"Everything I'm hearing from my own sources in Washington is that what you have now is a kind of push back by Vice-President [Dick] Cheney and his office and other hardliners who are opposed to diplomatic dealings with North Korea," he said.

"[They are] hoping that by making public these allegations of nuclear cooperation it will torpedo the diplomatic process."

Earlier White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the US would be continuing its six-country talks with North Korea.

04-26-2008, 09:58 AM
US rebuked over Syria nuclear case



The head of the UN nuclear monitoring agency has criticised the US for withholding intelligence information that it says showed the construction of a nuclear reactor in Syria.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Friday also hit out at Israel for bombing the site before inspectors could investigate.

ElBaradei "deplores the fact" that the information was not immediately passed on to the Vienna-based watchdog in accordance with the guidelines of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the IAEA said in a statement.

"Under the NPT, the agency has a responsibility to verify any proliferation allegations in a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT," the agency said.

North Korean help
ElBaradei also said the agency would investigate the claims that Syria was building a secret nuclear reactor with North Korea's help.

Washington alleged that the facility had a military purpose until Israel destroyed it in a bombing raid last September.

The watchdog was critical of both the US and Israel for their handling of the matter.

"In light of the above, the director-general views the unilateral military action by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime," it added.

The agency said it was taking seriously the allegations that were passed on by the United States on Thursday and will investigate the findings.

"[We] will treat this information with the seriousness it deserves and will investigate the veracity of the information," it said.

"Syria has an obligation under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA to report the planning and construction of any nuclear facility."

'Come clean'
The White House said in a statement on Thursday that Syria "must come clean" over its alleged secret co-operation with North Korea on the reactor.

It also described the alleged assistance as a "dangerous manifestation'' of North Korea's nuclear proliferation activities, but said it would continue six-party talks to try to resolve the nuclear standoff with the isolated nation.

The claims follow a briefing of US congressional officials in Washington DC by intelligence chiefs, including William Hayden, the CIA director.

However, some US legislators earlier warned that the claims could wreck vital six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme.

Later on Thursday, Syria's ambassador to the US dismissed claim as a "ridiculous story".

Imad Moustapha told Al Jazeera that his government maintained there was no evidence of any alleged secret nuclear activity.

Timothy Savage, an analyst from the Nautilus Institute, told Al Jazeera that the US claims could be treated with a degree of sceptism.

"The Bush administration doesn't have a great track record with intelligence, so it's natural that people will approach this with some scepticism," he said.

'Nuclear facility'
The controversy began last September, when an Israeli air raid destroyed a target in Syrian territory which some reports later said was a nuclear facility being built with North Korean help.

Syria, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has maintained in the past that the site was an unused military facility.

It later razed the site and built a larger building in its place.

The target of Israel's raid has been veiled in secrecy, with US intelligence and government officials refusing to confirm for months that such a raid even took place.

Interview: Seymour Hersh


By Sarah Brown

Seymour Hersh, one of the world's best known investigative journalists, has turned his attention to the mysterious and controversial bombing of a Syrian facility by Israel last year.

In a new article for the New Yorker magazine, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, best known for his work exposing the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the horrific mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, says evidence indicates the bombing was a warning to Syria and its allies, including Iran.

Al Jazeera spoke to him about the bombing, why he feels the media failed on the story, and what it means for the Middle East.

Q: Why did Israel bomb a target in Syria?

A: Well I don't have the answers to that direct question - one thing that is terribly significant is that the Israel and its chief ally the US have chosen to say nothing officially about this incident and that's what got me interested - whoever heard of a country bombing another one and not talking about it and thinking they had the right somehow not to talk about it?

In 1981 when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq they were very noisy and public about it. In this case they said nothing publicly, but after a few weeks they began to leak [information].

They began to tell certain reporters very grandiose sort of stories about what was going on - ships arriving with illicit materials, offloaded by people in protective gear ... from a port in the Mediterranean across to the bomb site, commando's on the ground, soil samples.

And none of it turned out to be true, really, at least I could find no demonstrable evidence for it.

And so I have to say, that if this article I did generates a decision by Israel to go public with its overwhelming dossier that will answer any questions well that's great ... but they have not and [I find awful] the hubris, the arrogance of thinking that you could go commit an act of war by any definition and then say nothing about it.

Syria of course compounded the problem by being hapless and feckless in response. It took them, I think, until October 1, almost four weeks after the incident before the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, acknowledged it had actually been bombed.

Q: Why was Syria's reaction so muted?

A: I think they're just hapless. I don't think they have any idea about the 24 hour news cycle – it’s just unbeknown to them.

So what happened is: A raid takes place, they announced rather quickly there was an intrusion by the Israelis, they initially say after a couple of days that munitions were bombed, then the foreign minister says in Turkey four or five days after the incident that nothing was bombed however, bombs fell but nothing was hit.

Then, three weeks later, the president says: "Oh, well actually a building was destroyed". You can't programme something that inept and that's a reality. They just weren't very good.

But there are other factors.

Q: Such as North Korea?

A: There were North Koreans, as the Israelis claimed at the site. They were building a facility, it was a military facility, I think my guess would be.

I was told two different things by various people inside Syria.

One said it was perhaps a chemical facility for chemical warfare, another one said more persuasively to me that "no, it was for missiles - short range missiles to be used in case we're attacked by Israel, we'd respond asymmetrically with missiles."

Q: Because they figure chemical weapons are of little use against a nuclear power?

A: Yes. They're incinerated. And I'm told they made that decision much longer ago than we might think.

I'm told they really devalued the use of a chemical warhead, certainly as a deterrent, because the response is nuclear.

Q: Didn't some of your sources tell you there was evidence to support the theory that the US wanted Israel to test Syria's air defences because they are similar to those of Iran?

A: In the beginning. This plan was staffed – by that I mean it was staffed by the US joint chiefs of staff, it was staffed by people in the vice president’s office.

The little bit I know about that process was in the summer, months before the mission, there was a lot of talk about doing the mission [and] there was a report in the intelligence community from the Defence Intelligence Agency saying that Syria had dramatically increased the capability of its radar and command control system.

[It said that it had] anti-aircraft radar close or parallel to that now known to be installed in Iran - so this was a way of testing the Syrian radar.

You can walk all over Syria and no-one cares, it's a small country of 17 million people. But to go into Iran and check out radars by overflying any site, that leads to counter attack.

The Israelis have been overflying with impunity, there's not much Syria can do and [the Israelis] knew Syria wouldn't do anything.

So it was initially understood by my friends as a radar operation, it was only after the fact that they learned something else.

It was very hard to get information [in Israel] because they have a bar against speaking and military censorship has been imposed on this issue.

But I did get some people to say to me "Ah, that stuff about radar was [rubbish] - it was never going to happen, that's a way or a vehicle for us to get in".

It seems clear from what I've learned from my American friends and the Syrians that the Israelis came right in and the only target they had was the one they bombed.

They weren't looking at any radar site, they just went in and whacked it.

So, then you really get to the next level of questions that I didn't really deal with in the article because it's so hypothetical – who authorised it?

Who did they talk to? I mean Israel does not do a raid like this without talking to the White House and I can't find anybody that knew they were going to hit the facility beforehand.

That could be that just I can't find it, and if not that doesn't mean it's not there, and it could also be that somebody like Dick Cheney, who has done this before, overrode the chain of command.

So in other words, normally all this information about an Israeli attack would soak through to the joint chiefs, but he undercut that process perhaps - he's done it before in other incidents - but I just can't tell you for sure what happened here.

Q: Was the raid's purpose to act as a potential deterrent to Iran?

A: Of course that was the idea for the US, to let the Iranians know that despite the national intelligence estimate "We're ready to ... we have a proxy and the Israelis will go bang for us if we need."

"I think the Israelis were troubled by the North Koreans there [at the site] ... and they thought: 'Whatever it is we're not going to let them be'"

But of course, for Israel, this whole mission had another point of view.

I think the Israelis were troubled by the North Koreans there [at the site], they were troubled by the building and they thought: "What the hell, whatever it is we're not going to let them be. We're going to hit the facility before it gets up, whatever it's going to be.

If they thought it was nuclear I hope they'll show us, otherwise they just hit a building that wasn't done yet.

And the [result] was terrific for them, because it gave Olmert a big jump, a big boost of support

Q: You mean after the war in Lebanon in 2006?

Absolutely. And also it was seen as a message to Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, who the Israelis believe has become cocky after the Hezbollah war because he was a big supporter of Hassan Nasrallah [Hezbollah leader] – he is Assad's big buddy.

The Israelis thought that they could take him down a peg, and also the message to Bashar Assad is: "So, what's Iran doing for you now, buddy? We go and pop you in the head and is Iran doing anything?"

And the American press and the international press end up being used on this one [story] in a scandalous way.

Q: On media culpability, this was a big issue in the lead up to the war in 2003 - questionable evidence that supposedly provides a cause for war. Is the media being manipulated again here?

A: The press was feckless on this and credulous and took everything at face value.

For me the US press - I don't think they've come face to face with what happened here.... the newspapers missed without question the biggest moral story of the last decade, which is the illegal road to war in Iraq and we missed it.

And that's not our job, it's not our job to miss that, our job is not to listen to the president. There were elements of the same pattern of "kiss-up" going on and that's very disturbing.

Q: With US elections this year, do you think any foreign policy is going to change with a new president, especially towards Israel, Iran and Syria?

A: Well certainly [it won’t change] with McCain, he's talking about not even changing the war, which I think is a big mistake.

Somebody I know wrote a wonderful essay making the point that Iraq is a dead body, and David Petraeus, the general, and our ambassador Ryan Crocker they're the undertakers, and their job is to keep up with the rouge and the makeup on the body for the next six months until we get past the election - that's their goal.

[On Israel] it's very hard, you know in America there's just no questioning. The American Jewish influence is enormous. There's a lot of money.

I just wish many American Jews would read the Israeli papers - particularly Haaretz - more carefully and they would see there's really a vibrant criticism of the Israeli government ... and you just don't see that today.

I'm Jewish and I'm not anti-Semitic and I'm not anti-Israel - [Israelis] understand that, just as by the way a lot of Americans don't understand that many of the leadership of Hamas and others.

Not everyone spends their life there wanting to kill Jews, they're more willing than people would like to believe to co-exist, they just don't like the system the way it works now.

Q: What do you think of Bush's legacy to the world?

He's done more to terrify the world than anybody I know. The world is so much more dangerous.

I have a very wise friend, born in Syria, who's a businessman in the West now.

Right after the bombing began in Iraq he said to me: "This war will not change Iraq - Iraq will change you" and so I've seen it come and it's very scary.

It's very scary to see how things are so fragile right now, nothing going on good in Lebanon nothing going on with Syria nothing going on with Iran ... We can't talk to people we don't like?

We've got to negotiate, it's the only way we're going to resolve our problems.