Last week’s allegation by the US government that an Israeli air strike in Syria last September hit a nuclear facility being developed with the cooperation of North Korea has drawn strong denials from the Syrian government. The real problem here, says The Real News Analyst Pepe Escobar, is that the air strike, and the claims made about it months later, have never been properly investigated by mainstream media.


Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: Was Syria building a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea? Well, spy thrillers don’t come any better than this. September 6, last year, Israel bombed a facility in Syria. This was an act of war. But then something extraordinary happened: Israel and the US both decided not to talk about it. Tales anyway started to leak. The narrative spun by Israel was a serial, like a sort of Dr. Evil building a nuclear reactor. Syria, for its part, didn’t help. It took them four weeks to admit the country was bombed. Some Syrians, they said perhaps it was a chemical plant; others said perhaps it was a short-range missile plant. The fact is Israelis bombed it anyway. They were very, very troubled because they had spotted North Koreans in the building. Moreover, Israelis were eager to send a message to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, saying, like, look, we can do anything we want, and there’s nothing your ally Iran can do to help you. Once again, just like in the buildup towards the war in Iraq, when it bought the myth of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, mainstream corporate media was totally manipulated. Already last fall, independent journalist Laura Rozen had spoken with Joseph Cirincione, director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress. Cirincione confirmed this was not a nuclear site; it was an underground arms depot for long- and medium-range missiles bought by Syria from Iran and North Korea. But for months US intelligence even refused to confirm the bombing ever happened. Now, seven months after the fact, the US seems to have proof that Syria was building a nuclear reactor. Was it really?

(CLIP BEGINS)

VOICEOVER: We assessed that the reactor could have been complete and that startup operations could have begun at any time, although additional weeks to months of testing were likely. The top of the reactor vessel in the reactor hall before concrete was poured around the vertical control rod and refueling tubes. Note the similar arrangement of vertical tube openings in the top of the Syrian reactor on the left and North Korea’s Yongbyon plutonium production reactor on the right.

(CLIP ENDS)

The White House said that Syria must come clean over this. But look at the Syrian reaction.

(CLIP BEGINS)

BASHAR JA’AFARI, SYRIA’S UN AMBASSADOR: These pictures are prefabricated. They are false and they are futile. Just look at them and you would see that this so-called building, which was, according to these rumors and allegations, predestined to be a nuclear reactor—.

(CLIP ENDS)

The Syrian ambassador went much further, naming the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

(CLIP BEGINS)

JA’AFARI: Syria has joined the NPT and puts all its facilities under the safeguard agreements of the IAEA. Only exception in the area is Israel. Israel has eight nuclear reactors on a piece of land not exceeding the size of 15,000 square kilometers. Israel has between 200 and 300 nuclear warheads. Israel is benefiting from the whole western experience and help and assistance with this regard.

(CLIP ENDS)

So what does the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, think of all this? Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA chief, at first was trying to dodge the question.

(CLIP BEGINS)

JOURNALIST: —Syria has built a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: I’m not getting into this right now.

JOURNALIST: No questions?

UNKNOWN: No questions, sorry. He comes to see the Sinai—.

[crosstalk]

ELBARADEI: I haven’t seen the news yet.

(CLIP ENDS)

But when he saw the news, ElBaradei criticized the US for withholding intelligence showing the construction of this supposedly nuclear reactor in Syria. And he also criticized Israel for bombing it before IAEA inspectors even had a chance to look at it. So what’s the lesson here? Well, some countries seem to be able to bomb others whenever they feel like it. It’s still unclear what was really bombed in Syria. As for the real losers, once again they are US mainstream media. They never even bothered to investigate the story.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: Was Syria building a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea? Well, spy thrillers don’t come any better than this. September 6, last year, Israel bombed a facility in Syria. This was an act of war. But then something extraordinary happened: Israel and the US both decided not to talk about it. Tales anyway started to leak. The narrative spun by Israel was a serial, like a sort of Dr. Evil building a nuclear reactor. Syria, for its part, didn’t help. It took them four weeks to admit the country was bombed. Some Syrians, they said perhaps it was a chemical plant; others said perhaps it was a short-range missile plant. The fact is Israelis bombed it anyway. They were very, very troubled because they had spotted North Koreans in the building. Moreover, Israelis were eager to send a message to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, saying, like, look, we can do anything we want, and there’s nothing your ally Iran can do to help you. Once again, just like in the buildup towards the war in Iraq, when it bought the myth of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, mainstream corporate media was totally manipulated. Already last fall, independent journalist Laura Rozen had spoken with Joseph Cirincione, director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress. Cirincione confirmed this was not a nuclear site; it was an underground arms depot for long- and medium-range missiles bought by Syria from Iran and North Korea. But for months US intelligence even refused to confirm the bombing ever happened. Now, seven months after the fact, the US seems to have proof that Syria was building a nuclear reactor. Was it really? (CLIP BEGINS) VOICEOVER: We assessed that the reactor could have been complete and that startup operations could have begun at any time, although additional weeks to months of testing were likely. The top of the reactor vessel in the reactor hall before concrete was poured around the vertical control rod and refueling tubes. Note the similar arrangement of vertical tube openings in the top of the Syrian reactor on the left and North Korea’s Yongbyon plutonium production reactor on the right. (CLIP ENDS) The White House said that Syria must come clean over this. But look at the Syrian reaction. (CLIP BEGINS) BASHAR JA’AFARI, SYRIA’S UN AMBASSADOR: These pictures are prefabricated. They are false and they are futile. Just look at them and you would see that this so-called building, which was, according to these rumors and allegations, predestined to be a nuclear reactor—. (CLIP ENDS) The Syrian ambassador went much further, naming the only nuclear power in the Middle East. (CLIP BEGINS) JA’AFARI: Syria has joined the NPT and puts all its facilities under the safeguard agreements of the IAEA. Only exception in the area is Israel. Israel has eight nuclear reactors on a piece of land not exceeding the size of 15,000 square kilometers. Israel has between 200 and 300 nuclear warheads. Israel is benefiting from the whole western experience and help and assistance with this regard. (CLIP ENDS) So what does the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, think of all this? Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA chief, at first was trying to dodge the question. (CLIP BEGINS) JOURNALIST: —Syria has built a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea. MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: I’m not getting into this right now. JOURNALIST: No questions? UNKNOWN: No questions, sorry. He comes to see the Sinai—. [crosstalk] ELBARADEI: I haven’t seen the news yet. (CLIP ENDS) But when he saw the news, ElBaradei criticized the US for withholding intelligence showing the construction of this supposedly nuclear reactor in Syria. And he also criticized Israel for bombing it before IAEA inspectors even had a chance to look at it. So what’s the lesson here? Well, some countries seem to be able to bomb others whenever they feel like it. It’s still unclear what was really bombed in Syria. As for the real losers, once again they are US mainstream media. They never even bothered to investigate the story. DISCLAIMER: Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.