"The attack was especially dramatic because the Israelis used bright magnesium illumination flares to light up the target before the bombing. Night suddenly turned into day." Seymour Hersh has given an interview to Al Jazeera about his investigation of the September 6, 2007 Israeli bombing of a Syrian site long suspected of being nuclear. On Monday next week, his article will be published in The New Yorker.
What was actually the meaning of that air strike doesn’t become clear at all. IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei expressed his frustration after the strike, saying:
“If a country has any information about a nuclear activity in another country, it should inform the I.A.E.A.—not bomb first and ask questions later.”
But there wasn’t a nuclear facility to be built. There wasn’t any construction site for producing chemical warfare. There were North Korean workers, but most probably they were engaged in constructing missiles. One possible reason for Bashar al-Assad better keeping pretty calm after the raid.
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was published three months later. According to Hersh, some reports about the forthcoming NIE and its general conclusion had already appeared at the time of the raid. Cheney’s office had resisted its implications for at least one year. It is Hersh’s speculation, but rear cover for the raid might have been given by Cheney himself, possibly even overriding the chain of command.
It is conceivable that the timely publication of the NIE has in fact prevented similar adventures regarding Iran. During his recent Middle East trip, Bush consistently stressed that the Iranian nuclear-weapons threat has not vanished from the scene. So, it is not over. Will it ever be?
See also this article in The Economist from January 31, 2008.