From the Huffington Post, 30 July 2012, by Alan Elsner:
As the death toll mounts in Syria
and the country slides deeper into civil war, the world should be thankful that
the Assad regime never succeeded in developing nuclear weapons -- which almost
happened in 2007.
The danger presented today by the
presence of Syrian chemical and biological weapons is bad enough. Just
think how much more dangerous the situation would have been if there were loose
nukes lying around.
According to a new history of the Mossad by reporters Dan Raviv and Yossi
Melman, Spies Against
Armageddon, Israel had become suspicious that the Syrians were building
a nuclear facility with North Korean help. The authors said Israel sent Mossad
operatives and a special forces unit into Syria several times to take samples
of soil, water and vegetation and in March 2007 managed to secure photos taken
inside the facility. Who took those photos remains the most closely-guarded
aspect of the operation.
According to Raviv and Melman,
the images provided clear evidence that Syria was building a graphite reactor
similar to North Korea's Yongbyon reactor which was used to build nuclear
bombs. The Mossad assessment was that the reactor would become "hot"
within a few months and would produce enough plutonium for a nuclear bomb
within a year.
Once it went online, the reactor
could not have been attacked without the danger of spreading deadly radiation
throughout the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert visited Washington in June 2007 and asked then-President George W. Bush to bomb the facility.
Bush refused and suggested instead that Western countries should instead
"expose" the Syrian reactor. This failed to satisfy Olmert and the
decision was taken to destroy the reactor -- which happened in a two-minute air raid on the evening of Sept.
Syria responded to the attack by
denying it had been building a nuclear plant. However, the Syrians refused to
allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the site
until they had cleared away the rubble and replaced the soil. Still, the
inspectors were not fooled and found enough evidence to convince them that the structure
had contained a North Korean-style reactor.
The IAEA said in a release in
June 2011 that the destroyed building "was very likely" a nuclear
reactor. "The Syrian Government was given ample time by the Agency to
cooperate fully concerning the Dair Alzour site, but did not do so.
Nevertheless, we had obtained enough information to draw a conclusion,"
IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said.
This, of course, was not the
first time Israel had saved the Middle East and the world from a dangerous
nuclear program. In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq's Osirek reactor. When Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait nine years later, he did not have a
nuclear weapon in his arsenal to deter the United States and its allies who
acted to reverse that act of aggression.
The Iraqi and Syrian operations
are examples of Israel braving international condemnation to defend its vital
security interests. But as the Syrian situation proves today, Israel did the
entire world a huge favor in both cases.