Al-Kibar Redux

There’s nothing more I really care to say about what we should have done about the North Korean-built nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar in Syria, which Israel destroyed in a September 2009 air strike. This was a matter of some temporary inconvenience to Chris Hill’s efforts (abetted by the President and Secretary of State) to sell us a shiny, pre-owned agreed framework, complete with rust-proofing and warranty.

Recently, however, Dick Cheney’s memoir has revived that debate. Michael Anton, writing in The Weekly Standard, summarizes Cheney’s argument. Bob Woodward responds here, at the Washington Post. For sur-rebuttal, we have this piece by Elliott Abrams, Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman and John Hannah, writing in the Washington Post. Among the interesting facts we learn from this is that Syria apparently had other facilities on its territory, presumably reprocessing facilities, that were designed to work with the reactor.

On a somewhat related note, although this piece by Jonathan Pollack about North Korea’s missile trade is interesting, it finds that North Korea’s missile exports declined precipitously after 2006. So how can Pollock be so sure of that? He thinks this decline coincides roughly with when the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1695, the first resolution banning North Korea’s missile program. I suspect that Pollack is partially right — North Korea probably did sell fewer missiles outright since the Proliferation Security Initiative began to bite, although I have yet to be convinced of exactly when the decline began or how steep it was. The reason? It may just be that because of said resolution, the North Koreans and their customers simply became more cagey about hiding their commerce. One way they went about this was to fly their missile parts right through the Beijing airport. Maybe Pollack has ways of registering that traffic, too, but I tend to doubt it.

Also somewhat related: I don’t find myself agreeing with Jennifer Rubin all that often, but I think failing to block Wendy Sherman’s confirmation will eventually turn out to be one of the worst decisions the Republicans in the Senate failed to make. It would have been better to let Sung Kim slip through and make Sherman the political issue, but some congressional oversight is still better than none at all.