ABC reported after the much-anticipated briefing by the U.S. Administration to members of Congress on Israel’s attack on a Syrian target last September that “Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and ranking member Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., are furious with the Bush administration for failing to brief Congress until eight months after Israeli jets bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site Sept. 6, 2007 … Leading lawmakers from the House Intelligence Committee accused the Bush administration of leaving them out of the loop by refusing to provide adequate intelligence briefings on North Korean help in constructing a nuclear facility in Syria until today. Both sides of the aisle warned the administration it would now face a steeper battle to gain congressional approval for any deal that may be reached to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear program through the so-called six-party talks … Neither Israeli nor U.S. officials had previously acknowledged the bombing in public and, according to satellite imagery taken in recent months, Syria quietly paved over the wreckage in an attempt to hide what had been built there. Hoekstra suggested that today’s briefing was motivated more by the administration’s attempts to advance the six-party talks than to fulfill its obligations to keep the relevant oversight committees on Capitol Hill informed. Those talks have deadlocked in recent months over North Korea’s failure to provide a satisfactory declaration of its nuclear programs by a Dec. 31, 2007 deadline. A deal may be in the works, however, under which North Korea would simply “acknowledge” U.S. concerns about Pyongyang’s proliferation activities”. The full ABC report can be seen here.
The Israeli press has gone quiet again — except for some anxiety-producing speculation that this briefing will provoke a Syrian attack (while there is much public activity elsewhere about Turkish efforts to bring Israel and Syria back into peace negotiations”.
Meanwhile, the IAEA is indignant. AP reported that “The head of the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency angrily criticized Israel on Friday for bombing an alleged Syrian nuclear facility, and chastised the U.S. for withholding information on the site.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei also was not provided information about the site until Thursday, the same day U.S. officials briefed members of the House Intelligence Committee about evidence including dozens of photographs taken from ground level and footage of the interior of the building gathered by spy satellites after the Israeli strike seven months ago … ‘The Director General deplores the fact that this information was not provided to the Agency in a timely manner, in accordance with the Agency’s responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to enable it to verify its veracity and establish the facts’, ElBaradei’s office said. Additionally, ‘the Director General views the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime‘, it said … Top U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters in Washington Thursday said they had high confidence in the judgment that North Korea had aided Syria with its nuclear program and the intention was to produce plutonium. But they claimed only low confidence for the conclusion that it was meant for weapons development, in part because there was no reprocessing facility at the site — something that would be needed to extract plutonium from spent reactor fuel for use in a bomb. The Syrian reactor was within weeks or months of being functional when Israeli jets destroyed it, a top U.S. official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The official said the facility was mostly completed but still had needed significant testing before it could have been declared operational”. The full AP report can be read here .
Syria says the evidence is fabricated.
There is a very interesting analysis which analyzes “inconsistencies in the presentation” and suggests that the Administration’s slide-show to Congress could have been — indeed, that it was — fake, posted over at the Moon of Alabama blog, here.
This posting calls the presentation an “elaborate information operation”, and says: “Some of these pictures are manipulated. Others might have been made in a different context and at a different place than alleged. Some are outright misleading.”
It also says: “one slide shows some undefinable structure in a very blurry aerial photograph next to a CIA computer graphic and the text says: ‘Internal Structure of Destroyed Building Matches Reactor Computer Model’. One really wonders how that could be. These CIA indeed managed to paint a computer graphic so that it fits their interpretation of a very blurry photograph. Who would have expected such a capability within that organisation?”