Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 24, 2007

Smoke Over Syria

'Where there is smoke there is fire,' the saying goes. But in theaters, movies and international politics smoke is sometimes created to simply pretend the existance of fire.

Such is likely the case with the illegal Israeli air attack on Syria that some 'interested sides' camouflaged as 'independent experts' peddle as having been targeted on something 'nuclear.'

Famed reporter Robin Wright writes in today's WaPo: Photographs Said to Show Israeli Target Inside Syria

Independent experts have pinpointed what they believe to be the Euphrates River site in Syria that was bombed by Israel last month, and satellite imagery of the area shows buildings under construction roughly similar in design to a North Korean reactor capable of producing nuclear material for one bomb a year, the experts say.

Photographs of the site taken before the secret Sept. 6 airstrike depict an isolated compound that includes a tall, boxy structure similar to the type of building used to house a gas-graphite reactor. They also show what could have been a pumping station used to supply cooling water for a reactor, say experts David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

Hmmm - independent experts ... well ... Paul Brannan got his BA in Government(!) in 2004 and is working at ISIS since then. ISIS itself has some four employees and its website doesn't reveal how it finances itself.

Brannan, of ISIS, combed through a huge amount of satellite imagery to find a site along the Euphrates that matches a reactor's specifications as well as descriptions of the attack site.

The ISIS analysis of the picture Mr. Brannan found is now available (pdf). It includes an aerial  photograph of some building half a mile from the Euphrates that distinguishes itself by having approximately the same outer dimensions as the building that houses the North Korean Yongbyon reactor. That, and only that, is the big find the ISIS folks have. They note though that the Syrian building somehow has a smaller roof?

They also find some other slight differences like the unexplained lack of a reactor vessel that should be visible during the multiyear construction of such a site. But they assert that there are roads and a few trucks and signs of recent use of earth moving machines. There is also water pumped from the Euphrat and a few miles away something that might be a dirt airstrip. I am certain that is all very significant.

But topping all of this the experts Msr. Albright and Brennan also assert:

North Korean reactor construction is based on an old Russian model ...

But the Yongbyon reactor, which these experts compare the Syrian site to, is a copy of the British Magnox design and certainly not based on anything Russian. Experts???

But indeed, Robin Wright tells us that these are 'very serious people' and certainly independent experts on reactor design issues.

The site ISIS claims to have found is quite in the middle of eastern Syria, some 80 miles south of the Turkish-Syrian boarder. A month ago some Robin Wright wrote in another WaPo piece on the issue:

The target of Israel's attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border.

She of course doesn't make any attempt to solve the contradiction from her old to the newest 'report'. Not that anybody would care. Nobody is looking for fire here. Lots of smoke is all that's needed.

But just in case you live in a "tall, boxy structure similar to the type of building used to house a gas-graphite reactor," please beware of U.S./Israeli F-16s.

Posted by b on October 24, 2007 at 19:51 UTC | Permalink


i was amused w/ms wright's protest email to think progress.

the press is constantly coming under attack for not identifying early enough the arguments made for going to war with Iraq.

what world does shee live in? we heard an abundance of agruments ,ade for going to war w/iraq. what we didn't hear was arguments for not going to war.

intellectually dishonest to attack me or The Post for merely trying to identify the people, institutions and arguments for more aggression action against Iran.

merely? lol.

This was meant to be a benchmark piece in covering the emerging debate

doesn't she mean covering the neocon side of the debate. where are the detractors? any?

I was contrasting what this group of people think with what the administration has been trying to do

contrast? lol.

Posted by: annie | Oct 24 2007 20:47 utc | 1

the comments at wapo are very enlightening. commentors have their gloves off wrt israel. i couldn't wade thru the entire 10 pages but the beginning starts off w/some israeli zionists. the comments i read were either massively pro israel, or the exact opposite. not a lot in between.

the post should be ashamed of this piece. why didn't they get judy miller to write it?

Posted by: annie | Oct 24 2007 23:14 utc | 2

Philip Giraldi (ex-CIA) Phantoms Over Syria - Everything Israel wants you to know about its secret airstrike

In the intelligence community, a disinformation operation is a calculated attempt to convince an audience that falsehoods about an adversary are true, either to discredit him or, in an extreme case, to justify military action. When such a campaign is properly conducted, information is leaked to numerous outlets over a period of time, creating the impression of a media consensus that the story is true, as each new report validates earlier ones.
On Aug. 31, one week before the Israeli attack on Syria, Bolton wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that concluded, “We know that both Iran and Syria have long cooperated with North Korea on ballistic-missile programs, and the prospect of cooperation on nuclear matters is not far-fetched. Whether and to what extent Iran, Syria or others might be ‘safe havens’ for North Korea’s nuclear-weapons development, or may have already benefited from it, must be made clear.” Perhaps this was just good timing. Perhaps it was something more—possibly representing information provided by Bolton’s excellent contacts within the Israeli government.
Even the Bush White House, generally willing to use any hint of malfeasance to condemn Damascus and Tehran, has been reluctant to confirm the story. It doesn’t need to. Official silence—narrated by a compliant press taking uncorroborated dictation—is cementing a public impression. That’s the way disinformation works. Done right, no one stops to ask where it came from—or who benefits.

Posted by: b | Oct 25 2007 9:46 utc | 3

link to NYT

here's a Wall Street banker dude--hired to soften up the Chinese currency, and to keep all those bad mortgages from absolutely wrecking the economy--rattling a sabre against....Tehran?

Am I dreaming, or is this really and truly a part of theTreasury Secretary's job description? I don't think so....

I guess we'll start bombing before the SOTU, maybe as late as January. Hitherto, I'd been thinking of March--on, or near, the 5th anniversary of our little adventure in Iraq. But no, here we are, completely over the top--because this is over the top.

Posted by: alabama | Oct 25 2007 15:45 utc | 4

The WaPo pictures of the supposed site in Syria causing all this brouhaha come without the coordinates – you are not supposed to make your own mind. I spent some time on Google earth, with the pictures of the ‘supposed nuclear site on the Euphrates’ as my guide (also one of the articles mentions it’s north of At Tibnah) and can confirm the coordinates of the site are: 35°42'28.03"N, 39°49'59.16"E. First thing you will notice is that the site is within 7 kilometers of the village of Qasabi (north-east of the site), and within 2 kilometers of the ruins of the Byzantine fortress of Halabiyya – a major tourist attraction downriver. Additionally there are two major roads running just past the site and providing the only link south to the archaeological sites of Dura Europos and Mari – again major tourist attractions. You can also see several very recent pictures uploaded through Panoramio of the fortress of Halabiyya and surroundings – just next door to the site (here, and here). Bottom line – the place is hardly isolated and at any given moment there will be hundreds of tourists passing by in their tour busses or just walking around. Not exactly isolated or secret isn’t it?

Posted by: ted | Oct 29 2007 0:45 utc | 5

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