Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

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Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

News Update: Syria’s Suspected Nuclear Site

Posted by K.E. White on November 1, 2007

Summary: Fox News talks with David Albright on his satellite analysis of Syria’s suspect nuclear site. And Oxford Analytica speculates on motives for Israel to overreact towards Syria’s mysterious site. And the IAEA investigation won’t make clearing anything up soon. 

Fox News talks with Albright, who suggests Israel’s attack was a rush-job:

“The Israelis stumbled upon this, were surprised and acted quickly,” Albright said. “And so we don’t know what evidence they collected or (if) they just panicked and decided to act without knowing and worried about the worse case.” 

Analysis of those previous images, taken by DigitalGlobe, found that the structure could be a nuclear facility at least several years from completion similar to one in North Korea, according to an ISIS report released last week.

Oxford Analytica lists reasons for an Israel overreaction, and suggests this nuclear mystery won’t clear up anytime soon:

The publicly available information could have other reasons for wanting to suggest the site was nuclear:

–Israel is anxious to rebuild an appearance of strength after its perceived setback at the hands of Hizbollah in Lebanon last year.

–Israel may also have been interested in taking action that might cause Iranian leaders to reconsider their own nuclear ambitions.

–Attacking an alleged nuclear facility in Syria–a much easier target than Iran–might serve both purposes.

If the site was a nuclear reactor under construction, it has serious implications for security in the region and on the global stage.

And such uncertainty appears to be crippling the IAEA investigation into the site. From Reuters:

A U.N. watchdog inquiry into a suspected Syrian covert nuclear site bombed by Israel may end inconclusively without more information than satellite pictures that are already available, a diplomat said on Wednesday.

The IAEA has been studying before-and-after commercial aerial photos of the site and has asked Syria for explanations. But Syria has not replied and the pictures alone are unlikely to yield conclusions, the diplomat told Reuters.

“IAEA experts are looking back at the evolution of this facility. But with these pictures alone they feel they may be unable to draw conclusions,” the diplomat, familiar with IAEA affairs but not authorised to speak on the record, told Reuters.

Oxford Analytica points out that Syria is a fully compliment member of both the NPT and IAEA member of the NPT. And guess what? “[The suspected nuclear site] was still several years away from completion and was not required to be declared to the IAEA at its early stage of construction.”

Posted in Israel, Syria, Nuclear, IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Syria’s Nuclear Update: Syria Denies and Destroys; IAEA Left in the Cold?

Posted by K.E. White on October 19, 2007

So Syria is trying to quell allegations that Israel bombed a nuclear facility within its territory. And all this confusion raises a serious question: Can the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) to effectively lead on nonproliferation efforts?

The equation of the Syrian nuclear press-blitz:

Denial + Destroy = Trust?

JTA Break News reports on Syrian plans to destroy the site, before it can be investigated by impartial parties:

Syria reportedly is clearing the remains of the alleged nuclear facility that Israel attacked last month.

Dismantling the site will make it difficult for International Atomic Energy Agency officials to learn what the facility was used for, the Washington Post reported Friday.

This will make it tough for IAEA inspectors, who noted with concern that IAEA-member Syria had not disclosed the site, in a tough spot.

But don’t worry: the United States has cleared up any confusion, via satellite photographs:

U.N. experts have received satellite imagery of the site struck last month by Israeli warplanes and are analyzing it for signs that it might have been a secret nuclear facility, diplomats said Friday.

One of the diplomats indicated that the photos came from U.S intelligence. Two others said the images, which have been studied by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency since being received on Thursday, do not at first examination appear to substantiate reports that the target was a nuclear installation, but emphasized that the images were still under examination.

The diplomats, who were briefed on the agency’s receipt of the images, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential. Officials of the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog had no comment.

The Syrian episode seems to reveal some stark limitations on the IAEA. If member nations cannot be trusted to either disclose nuclear activities or conclusively disprove other nations’ nuclear allegations, how can the IAEA effectively curb proliferation?

Posted in IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, Israel, Israeli strike, Nuclear, Syria | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Egypt Protests Eroding EU Support for Middle East Nuclear Free Zone

Posted by K.E. White on October 18, 2007

While Iran and North Korea nuclear ambitions dominate Western headlines, Israel’s undeclared-but-known nuclear weapons (aka ‘nuclear ambiguity) is a substantial hurdle to stemming Middle East nuclear proliferation. 

EU and aspiring EU members have backed off in their support for proclaiming a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. 

The reason? No, not Iran—but Israel. 

Whether one considers Israel’s nuclear forces justified or not, any long-term nonproliferation effort demand that Israel’s (along with India and Pakistan) nuclear status be declared and incorporated into international agreements on nuclear technology (i.e. the IAEA and NPT). 

From the Associated Press

European nations at past general conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency have voted in favor of establishing a zone free of such arms. But at last month’s session, 25 of the 27 EU nations abstained as did other countries hoping to join the union. In all, 47 nations abstained. 


This year, Israel and the United States opposed two paragraphs — one calling all nations in the Middle East “not to develop, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons,” the other urging nuclear weapons states to “refrain from any action” hindering the establishment of a Mideast zone free of nuclear weapons. Both passages were clearly aimed at Israel, which is thought to have nuclear weapons.

The vote prompted the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit to send letters of protest to abstaining European nations. describes the irritation experienced by Middle Eastern owing to the West’s tacit endorsement of Israel’s nuclear weapons—complicating nonproliferation efforts in this critical region.

However, the Egyptian and Syrian ambassadors yesterday signaled that their patience was wearing thin. “The fact that many UN and IAEA resolutions with regard to Israel’s nuclear capabilities are not carried out increases the frustration of the Arab peoples and threatens an arms race that could also threaten the peace and security of the region and the world,” said Othman.

He complained that Israel was the only country in the Middle East “to have nuclear weapons and nuclear capabilities which are not under international control.” It was, therefore, a legitimate concern “to ask Israel to join the other countries in the NPT” (the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), Othman said.

Posted in Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt, IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, Israel, Nuclear Weapons | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

US India Nuclear Deal Hits An Israeli Snag, But Gets a French Boost

Posted by K.E. White on October 2, 2007

The US-India nuclear deal may have hit an Israeli stepback. With the deal already facing fire in New Delhi and still lacking IAEA approval, a new challenge has appeared: Israel is lobbying the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to give India and Israel access to nuclear trade.

Getting the NSG to make an exception for India–a non-NPT recognized nuclear power–already caused turbulence, but had apparently won the support of China and Russia. Will this Israel variable set India back to square one?

Will Turkey really support an exemption only adds emphasis to Pakistan–a non-recognized nuclear power–failure to get the same treatment as Israel and India? And how will this Israeli lobbying be viewed in the Middle East?

But India also got some good news on the NSG front. France, a key member of the group, will actively lobby for an Indian exception to NSG rules that bar nuclear trade with non-NPT member states.

The move was predictable, since France seeks to conclude its own nuclear deal with India.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports on the Israeli complication:

Using the Israeli proposal as an example, the opponents of the Indo-US nuclear deal can argue that any exception to the NPT restriction may open the gate to proliferation as other non-recognised nuclear states may also demand acceptance. Documents outlining Israel’s proposal were distributed among the NSG members in March and have circulated on Capitol Hill in Washington in recent days.

The Israeli plan offers 12 criteria for allowing nuclear trade with non-treaty states, including one that hints at Israel’s status as an undeclared nuclear weapons state: A state should be allowed to engage in nuclear trade if it applies “stringent physical protection, control and accountancy measures to all nuclear weapons, nuclear facilities, source material and special nuclear material in its territory.”

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the Israeli document could affect the debate over India. “The dynamics at the NSG are that no country wants to stand in the way of the largest country, India, and the most powerful country, the US,” he said.

And The Hindu reports on French support for India’s nuclear exception:

In this regard, France is awaiting the waiver by NSG, the officials said, adding an Indo-French nuclear agreement would be on a “different scale” than the Indo-US deal.

It would involve transfer of crucial reprocessing technology that has been denied by Washington in the Indo-US deal.

“We feel that there is a necessity to introduce a change in the international system (on nuclear issue) to allow India to play its due role in it,” a senior official of the French Atomic Energy Commission told a group of visiting Indian journalists here.

Posted in America, France, France India nuclear deal, India, Israel, Nuclear Deal, Nuclear Suppliers Group, U.S. India Nuclear Deal | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Monday Afternoon Tea: TNR on the Israeli Strike, and Norman Podhoretz’s Worldview Courtesy of Politico

Posted by K.E. White on September 24, 2007

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud OlmertSummary: The New Republic’s Dennis Dennis Ross gives an excellent explanation of what brought about and what effect was wrought from Israel’s Syrian strike. Meanwhile, Politico’s David Paul Kuhn brings focus to Neo-con patriarch Norman Podhoretz.Syrian leader Bashar al Assad

Ross argues that Israel’s Syrian strike reinforces Israel’s deterrent capability and is a response to Syria’s arms build-up (and–of course–a possible message to Iran). Ross endorses Israel’s move, considering it a stroke of hard-power precision—getting the desired results, without fanning a great conflict.

Ross delves into Israel’s penchant for secrecy, but misses the critical issue: What will be Syria’s next move? Is Syria as isolated as we think? And could Arab silence on Israel’s strike be another blow their fragile legitimacy at home?

Meanwhile, Kuhn reveals two aspects of meeting Norman Podhoretz held with George W. Bush and Karl Rove: 1) that he urged them to strike Iran and 2) they seemed to admit that negotiations with Iran were pointless.

Norman PodhoretzKuhn also fleshes out Podhoretz’s Middle East position: that the war in Iraq is necessary for American security, and is part of a greater conflict between Western liberalism and Islamofascism (a Podhoretzian turn of phrase).

Segment of interest: Podhoretz stands by his prediction that the Bush administration will strike Iran. Is this all part of a well constructed bluff on the part of the administration to alter Iranian calculus? Could Bush be simply building the best bargaining position possible for the next President?

Check out this Campus Progress biography for more on Podhoretz’s monumental contribution to the neoconservative movement–from an opposing viewpoint.

Posted in Bashar al Assad, Ehud Olmert, Iran, Israel, New Republic, Norman Podhoretz, Politico, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Cat’s Out of the Bag: Sources Confirm Israel’s Syrian Air Raid Sought Out Suspected Nuclear Site

Posted by K.E. White on September 21, 2007

Condensed form: The Israel air-force struck a suspected Syrian nuclear site thought to be constructed with North Korean aid earlier this month.

Thought of the day: Times have changed at the White House. Regime change in North Korea has morphed to quiet, but firm diplomacy in regards to North Korea. (Read Bush’s muted response to questions yesterday.) But does it signify a change of heart or merely differing priorities, with the White House squarely focused on Iran?

From WaPo:

Israel’s decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the underlying intelligence. Although the administration was deeply troubled by Israel’s assertion that North Korea was assisting the nuclear ambitions of a country closely linked with Iran, sources said, the White House opted against an immediate response because of concerns it would undermine long-running negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence before Israel proceeded with the raid, which hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties, the sources said.

The target of Israel’s attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. A Middle East expert who interviewed one of the pilots involved said they operated under such strict operational security that the airmen flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know the details of the mission. The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air, he said. Syrian authorities said there were no casualties.

Posted in air strike, Bush, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Nuclear, September 6, Syria, White House | Leave a Comment »

Bush on Israel’s Syrian Strike: “I’m not going to comment on the matter.”

Posted by K.E. White on September 20, 2007

Just watched this enlightening response from President George W. Bush to NBC’s David Gregory.

Should the public know what was behind Israel’s air-strike on Syria? And when should they know it?


Bush on North Korea-Syria link: “We expect them not to be proliferating.”

More from the response:


“We have made it clear and we will continue to make it clear to the North Koreans through the six party talks that we expect them to honor their commitment to give up weapons and weapons programs. And to the extent that they are proliferating, we expect them to stop proliferating.”

“It matters whether they are, but the concept of proliferation is equally as important as getting rid of programs and weapons.”

“We expect them not to be proliferating.”


Posted in Bush, Israel, North Korea, strike, Syria, White House | Leave a Comment »

What Was Behind Israel’s Strike on Syria?

Posted by K.E. White on September 19, 2007

Putting aside conspiracy theories and Bolton’s North Korea twist aside, the Christian Science Monitor explores possible reasons behind the air-strike

The article in condensed form: 

1)      Israel reaffirming its deterrence capability—one that took a big hit in last summer’s Lebanon operation

2)      Warning signal to Iran: a military strike on Syria provoked muted international reaction. Would international reaction to an Iranian air strike be the same?

3)      Off that rift, proof of the durability of relations between Israel and Turkey, and other moderate Muslim nations in the Middle East

4)      The forerunner to a European-US air-strike on Iran, which can be inferred from the El Baradei-Western split over Iranian diplomacy

 Read this for more information on Israel’s air-strike capabilities

Posted in Christian Science Monitor, IAEA, Iran, Israel, Syria | 1 Comment »

Saudi Arabia Round-Up: US Criticizes then Gives Arms; Economy on the Up and Up; And Why Not to be Sri Lakan 17-Year Old in Saudi Arabia

Posted by K.E. White on July 31, 2007

Short Read: Review of recent develops out of Saudi Arabia: Zalmay Khalilzad backpedals on earlier criticisms on Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq; Gates & Rice head over to Saudi Arabia for desert-side chats; Saudi Arabia pushes ‘A+’ economic reforms. Oh and Bradford Plumer and Israel Chime In


UN Ambassador Khalilzad’s ‘before’ shot: (detailed article from Al Jazeera)

“Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq,” he said on “Late Edition.” “At times, some of them are not only not helping, but they are doing things that is undermining the effort to make progress.”

And the ‘after’ shot (from Justin Bergman at AP):

Zalmay Khalilzad attempted to play down the critical remark he made Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition,” telling reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that Saudi Arabia is “a great ally” and friend of the United States.

This diplomatic dance only added focus to a Bush administration backed arms deal to Saudi Arabia. Jim Lobe offers this description in an excellent Asia Times article:

Under the arms-for-allies plan, the US would provide $13 billion in aid over 10 years – roughly the same amount that it has been getting for most of the past decade. While precise figures have not been released, State Department officials said Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council will be encouraged to buy some $20 billion in new arms, including satellite-guided bombs, missile defenses, and upgrades for their US-made fighter jets over the same period.

To dampen concerns by Israel and its supporters in Washington, the Bush administration is also proposing a 10-year, $30 billion package to preserve the Jewish state’s military superiority – or “qualitative edge” – over its Arab neighbors. That would amount to a 25% increase in US military assistance to Israel over current levels.

Lobe’s article offers a critical eye on the plan, while illustrating its chief aim: solidifying anti-Iran forces in the Middle East. Doing so through arms sales—and not regime change—is a major shift in Bush administration: returning to the realism of the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations. The down side? The United States is arming despotic, and perhaps fragile regimes.

Sometimes map can help. Notice that Iran is effectively surrounded by US allies:

Map of Iran

These arms deals to Saudi Arabia and Israel are giving these nations tools to covertly attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. Should Iran get on the verge of having an atomic arsenal, what better way to split anti-American rhetoric than have an Arab state strike Iran?

Would this actually happen? Doubtful–but nuclear genies pack a big punch.

And Bardford Plumer slashes the deal, revealing the ‘joke’ of helping Saudi Arabia’s military:

Indeed, Tariq Ali mentioned something similar in his recent review of two books on Saudi Arabia: “[T]he Saud clan, living in a state of permanent fear… [has] kept the size of the national army and air force to the barest minimum. [W]hat happens to the vast quantity of armaments purchased to please the West? Most of them rust peacefully in desert warehouses.” Is that true? The Saudis don’t even want the weapons in question and have no intention of using them? They just buy them “to please the West”? Do these deals make any sense to anyone who’s not a defense contractor?

But Rice and Gates are still pushing the deal in their Middle East trip.

At least money isn’t a problem for Saudi Arabia. From Forbes:

Fitch Ratings said it raised the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Outlook to positive from stable as it affirmed the country’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating at ‘A+’.

High oil prices continue to strengthen the government’s domestic and external balance sheets and government is using its fiscal surplus — that touched 25 pct of GDP in 2006 — to pay down domestic debt, build external assets and invest in infrastructure, Fitch said.

And this comes on the heels of extensive economic reforms:

Economic policy has not focused only on internal domestic issues. Indeed, the Saudi government has also sought to further advance the country’s integration with the regional and global economy. The first step aimed at improving and cementing Saudi Arabia’s bilateral and multilateral trade relations on a regional level, starting with the customs union formed with the other five members of the GCC in 2003 that lowered custom duties on most products to 5%. Saudi Arabia then granted GCC citizens equal treatment as its Saudi citizens in areas such as investing in the stock market, establishing a company, private sector employment, social security benefits, government procurement, shipping, and retail, including real estate, according to NBK report.

On a broader scale, the Kingdom’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was finalized toward the end of 2005, ending about 12 years of negotiations. WTO accession has committed the Kingdom to lowering its tariff barriers and other trade barriers and to accelerating the liberalization process of its key sectors, including telecommunications, banking, and insurance. The Kingdom had also signed 39 bilateral agreements, notably with its largest trading partners, the European Union, the United States, and China.

Looking forward, Saudi Arabia has the potential to continue to grow rapidly -driven by the strength of global energy demand, substantial public and private investment, an improving business environment benefiting from liberalization and privatization initiatives, and a rapidly growing population enjoying higher purchasing power.

If arms deals, coupled with wise policy on the part of Saudi, helps 1) reinforce American alliances and 2) lead to long-term stability in the Middle East, what’s the problem? Especially with American military resources stretched and low credibility, what other path is there?

Granted the US could push to transform its relationship with Iran, but such work will fall to the next administration. Bush’s best role: put that administration in the best place possible for talks with Iran. (Yet, in my view, the biggest boast Bush could give would be setting up a plan to pull out of Iraq.)

But one should note Saudi Arabia’s still troubled image: Note the slated execution of a minor on seemingly fluff charges.

A human rights group has urged Saudi Arabia to reconsider the death sentence given to a Sri Lankan maid accused of killing a baby in her care, saying she was a minor at the time and cannot be executed under international law.

Last month, a Saudi court sentenced Rizana Nafeek, 19, to be beheaded for killing the infant two years ago. She has appealed the conviction, which human rights groups say was based on a coerced confession. (AP)

Posted in arms deal, Bush administration, Gates, Iraq, Israel, Rice, Rizana Nakfeek, Saudi Arabia, Zalmay Khalilzad | 6 Comments »

Can Israel Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Facilities?

Posted by K.E. White on July 30, 2007

Short-Read: Israel can strike Iran, Human Intelligence Vital to These and Similar Operations

Whitney Raas and Austin Long size up Israel’s ability to successfully strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Their verdict?

“…Israeli leaders have access to the technical capability to carry out the attack with a reasonable chance of success. The question then becomes one of will and individual calculation.” (30)

Using Israel’s Osirak operation as a benchmark, Raas and Long find any future operation against Iran shares the same likelihood as the 1981 attack on Iraq’s nuclear facilities.

The authors compare Israeli and Iranian air defenses and airforces, outline Iran’s main nuclear sites, and show three likely pathways for the attacks.

While Iran’s air defenses are greater than Iraq’s in 1981, Israel’s F-15 and 16 I’s aircrafts coupled with their ready supplies of BLU-109 and BLU-113 bunker busters are more than enough to knock out Iran’s critical nuclear sites.

But don’t think missiles and buttons are the only keys to successful coercive counter proliferation. Israel boasts two specialized forces: Sayeret Shaldag-Unit 5101 (laser aiming) and Unit 5707 (assessment).

Here’s a quick visual on such an operation’s pathways:

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And here’s a review Israel’s targets in Iran:

Iran‘s nuclear complex has three critical nodes for the production of fissile material: a uranium coversion facility in Isfahan, a large uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, and a heavy water plant and plutonium production reactors under construction at Arak. (13)

Read the article for more details, but here’s a boiled down version of the policy implications of the study:

This analysis, however, highlights the critical nature of target knowledge. In many cases, the means of striking or defending WMD targets may be less important than the ability to locate or hid them. Those seeking to stop proliferation would be advised to invest heavily in intelligence collection and analysis, while proliferators should rely on concealing and dispersing rather than hardening targets. (31)

Posted in Arak, Counterproliferation, Iran, Isfahan, Israel, Natanz, Sayeret Shaldag, Unit 5707 | 2 Comments »