Sunday, November 25, 2007
License To IL
Laura Rozen directs our attention to this Yossi Melman Haaretz piece, which adds yet another veil of uncertainty onto the Israeli airstrike in Syria two months ago. Melman cites an Israeli professor who, after analyzing satellite photos, claims the Syrian site was not a reactor after all, but a nuclear bomb-assembling plant. The explicit assumption is that Syria was already in possession of the fissionable material necessary for constructing the bomb, and the implicit assumption is that it came from the only place on Earth where fissionable material is not held very accountable to the international community's standards of non-proliferation. Which gives me the perfect excuse to unload this photo, which I've titled "The Mack" and have been holding onto for just such an occasion.
This story had lain dormant for long enough that I was beginning to wonder whether or not it would re-surface. Of course, given the lack of any meaningful attempt to actually reveal what took place, as well as the epistemological challenges involved in using "intelligence" to convince anyone of anything anymore, there are two possibilities about the latest theory, namely 1) the phony reactor meme had been conclusively debunked, so it was necessary to find a new phony meme to alarm people about the threat posed by North Korea; or 2) the phony reactor meme doesn't even come close to doing justice to how seriously IL Kim Jong really is.
I've always dismissed the worst-case scenario that has one country (usually Pakistan, North Korea and lately Russia) just handing over a bomb to another country (usually Iran and lately Syria) in a fit of pique over an American unilateral military intervention, mainly because it seems farfetched, but also because it seems implausible to assume that any of those countries would assume the risks of actually transporting a nuclear device. Anything approaching appropriate security measures would almost guarantee attracting surveillance attention, and any attempt to sneak the thing in would leave it too vulnerable to interception.
But if the Melman story is true (and that's a big if), Kim Jong-il decided it just ain't no thang to sling some plutonium on The Corner of All Corners, the Middle East. And that's ill.