Sunday Times: Israelis Seized N. Korean ‘Nuclear Material’ in Syria

I wonder how Chris Hill is going to talk his way out of this one:

Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.

They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Israeli special forces had been gathering intelligence for several months in Syria, according to Israeli sources. They located the nuclear material at a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in the north.  [Sunday Times, London]

Not just “material,” but North Koreans, “a number” of whom were reportedly killed in the Israeli strike.  The Washington Post’s latest story is consistent with this version and corroborates parts of it.   According to this AFP story, President Bush saw the intel and was still unprepared to abandon Agreed Framework 2.0.  With the reports steadily leaking out, it’s going to be hard to sustain the charade now.  One can only imagine the ferocity of the debate behind the scenes. 

The latest reports certainly add a whole new level of curiosity to reports that Syrian diplomats are in Pyongyang for high-level talks.  The Council on Foreign Relations has much interesting background on how this is affecting the diplomacy, including speculation on why the latest session of six-party talks was suddenly called off.   It looks like  the North Koreans will have  time to get  their story straight.

Personally,  I blame Bill Richardson

Previous post on “Orchard” here.

Update 23 Sept 07:  The Sunday Times is still reporting more details.

ISRAELI commandos from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit ““ almost certainly dressed in Syrian uniforms ““ made their way stealthily towards a secret military compound near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria. They were looking for proof that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear programme.

Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources. President George W Bush was told during the summer that Israeli intelligence suggested North Korean personnel and nuclear-related material were at the Syrian site.  [Sunday Times, London]

The further down you read the more speculative some of it sounds.  Unfortunately, the quality of reporting is inversely proportional to the opacity of the  governments and the secrets they keep.  It seems to be in the interests of absolutely everyone — including the Bush Administration — to keep this one off Page One. 

News of the secret ground raid is the latest piece of the jigsaw to emerge about the mysterious Israeli airstrike. Israel has imposed a news blackout, but has not disguised its satisfaction with the mission. The incident also reveals the extent of the cooperation between America and Israel over nuclear-related security issues in the Middle East. The attack on what Israeli defence sources now call the “North Korean project” appears to be part of a wider, secret war against the nonconventional weapons ambitions of Syria and North Korea which, along with Iran, appears to have been forging a new “axis of evil”.

The operation was personally directed by Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, who is said to have been largely preoccupied with it since taking up his post on June 18.

Digg it here.


  1. I am still highly skeptical of the nuclear claims. This report is joining long-known info about NK-Syrian missile cooperation with likely info on U.S.-Israeli intel collaboration and plausible but unproven assertions about the nuclear material.

    As you note, no question that Bill Richardson is responsible for this.


  2. At what point do we take North Korea out?

    At what point does that question move from some hypothetical, at a party, after a few drinks, question — to one that is going on seriously with a needed answer pressing?

    At some point, you have to use preemption or deterrence or whatever you want to call it.

    Allowing Syria and Iran to have nuclear weapons via North Korea’s help is insane ——- if we are also going to keep our relationship with Israel.

    Abandoning Israel is not only politically unthinkable (but more likely the closer those nations come to demonstrating they have nuclear warheads) but it is only slightly more absurd than the idea of accepting that Syria and Iran are nuclear states.

    Are we going to accept both being involved in that region (Israel, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Egypt) + accept we are sitting right beside nations who are radically inclined to hate us, who are the major sources of funding and material aid to (terrorist) groups striking at our key ally in the region and at us periodically, and who have nuclear weapons?

    Let me cut this short….

    Are we going to accept the possibility of war with nuclear armed foes in the short to medium term?

    Or, are we going to accept isolated terror attacks against ourselves and periodic flare ups against Israel – with those flare ups pushing us toward a war we will never fight because of those nuclear weapons?

    Or, are we going to retreat from the region to a safer location away from their nukes — thus shifting the control of the region to the likes of Tehran and gas prices at about $10.00 a gallon or higher.

    (People on the left like to throw around terms like “blood for oil” but we are talking about lives on a global scale. Oil drives the global economy, and the global economy is what allows the flow of goods and services that benefit far more than just the fat cats of the West. — Turning back the clock to localism or regionalism is not going to produce a healthier world….)

    And what happens when NK gives Iran (and Syria) the rocket power to reach London with the warhead. How far into Europe (or China) can Iran’s Korean missiles already reach?

    At some point, the pain you have to accept today is justified by the world you are trying to prevent from coming about….

    If NK is going the route of selling nuclear material, it must be taken out.


  3. If the strike was against only a Syrian missile facility I highly doubt the Syrian reaction would be so mute. Plus why would Israel bomb Syrian missiles supplied by North Korea now when they have been living with these missiles in Syria for years? I think the Syrian reaction shows that there is more to this than just missiles.


  4. That is what I’m speculating at my site that it has to be more than missiles and possibly chemical and biological tipped missiles with help from Nork engineers. Whatever happened the Israelis clearly have the Syrians by the balls for sake of a better term judging by their reaction.