Monday, September 24, 2007

Syria, Israel and North Korea - Axis of Mystery?

I have been wanting to write about this for long. I finally get to. Earlier this month, Israeli jets violated Syrian airspace and bombed an "unidentified" target near the Syrian border with Turkey. What should normally have been an incident marked by high-wattage verbal exchange has instead been enveloped with curious silence. Syria has complained to the UN about the incursion but has not spoken out on the nature of the site attacked. Israel, sticking to its policy of ambiguity on sensitive matters, has not commented on the strike. The Americans haven't been helpful either. But the two sides have acknowledged, directly or indirectly, that an attack did indeed take place.

Journalists who have reported from and on West Asia have been stunned by this development and how little they have been able to unearth about it. The most credible theory floating around is that Israel bombed a Syrian stockhouse of basic components of a nuclear programme that it acquired at discount rates from North Korea as it seeks to purge weapons out of its nuclear programme to meet international denuclearisation deadlines. The obvious question that arises is whether this attack was designed to be a pre-cursor to a similar surgical attack on Iran? Syria may have been bombed but was Iran the actual target? Much as I would like to get to the answer, there seems very little out there that may help us reach a definite answer. What strikes me is that despite the reams being written on what might happen in West Asia, things remain very unpredictable. Nobody saw this attack coming. Nobody has made perfect sense out of it. At least till now.

Creeps me to think that such an attack by Israel may burst out of the blue. Even more when I try and imagine what Iran's response is going to be. Surely not just defence fire. Iran has already issued a warning to Israel after its attack on Syria. John Leyne, BBC's correspondent in Terhan, puts it best when he says that wars occur when two sides completely misunderstand each others' intentions. Given the shroud of secrecy, Iran and Israel surely don't.


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