Photo courtesy of IAF
Israeli jet
Photo courtesy of IAF

Satellite photos don’t lie

Details of Syria ‘nuke site bombing’ emanate familiar scent of political spin

The story known as “the operation in Syria” (according to foreign sources: an Israeli bombing of a Syrian target) continues to stir the imagination of journalists across the world. Not a week goes by without yet another hair-raising twist being reported regarding this mythological incident.


Last week we saw Aviation Week, a respectable magazine by all means, join the ranks of storytellers. It told its readers that Israeli satellite Ofek 7, which was launched to space in June 2007, directed the first accusatory finger at the site suspected of being a nuclear reactor.


Meanwhile, al-Jazeera went as far as taking the Israeli Air Force out of the story, attributed the mission to the American Air Force, and informed its viewers that the site was hit by a “tactical nuclear bomb.” No less.


As we recall, the Sunday Times reported that the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit was part of the celebration and told its readers how those guys infiltrated the Syrian desert in the middle of the night and marked the target with lasers. The newspaper did not detail whether only Jean Claude Van Damme took part in the operation, or Tom Cruise as well.


Each legend of this sort is marketed enthusiastically, read passionately, and then spreads from one newspaper to another, from one channel to another, and from one website to another, as if it was some kind of contagious virus immune to doubts.


Yet the questions, doubts, and bewilderment refuse to go away. Here is a hint below:


  • Initially, the 2007 satellite images were published, as if the suspicious structure was only discovered this year (see the abovementioned Aviation Week report.) However, soon after that, images from September 2003 surfaced, and it turned out that the American intelligence community has been familiar with this structure for four years. Why then did persistent leaks to newspapers claim that Israel was the one that relayed the information to the Americans? Isn’t it more logical that it was the other way around?


  • Any child with a personal computer can view (even now) the “reactor” using Google Earth. The coordinates are as follows: 35.42’24.68 – North; 39.49’56.44 – East. Those who do this will realize quickly that this story is even more ancient than thought. The main structure in Google can be seen clearly and sharply, but the other two structures are completely absent from the images – the “pumping station” on the riverbank and the rectangular building a bit north of the “reactor.” In the images from 2003, we can already see some of the rectangular structure, but the “pumping station” is still absent. One does not need to be a genius to realize that Google’s satellite images were shot even before September 2003. That is, this “reactor’ was at least five-years-old. Perhaps more. So what exactly happened that made the operation so urgent and essential?


  • Close scrutiny of Google Earth elicits an almost grotesque finding. This “reactor” is not surrounded by any fence. There is no wall there either, no watchtowers, no residential structures, no patrol roads, no anti-aircraft positions, and no barracks…nothing. Just like that, on the riverbank, between two civilian roads, lies a nuclear reactor, and we don’t even see a guard post in the periphery. Does this sound serious? Recently, so it seems, someone directed Israel’s attention to this embarrassing inconsistency. Quickly, a wonderful excuse was found: this facility was so secretive that even the Syrian army didn’t know about it, and therefore it was unguarded. It appears that it’s much likelier to assume that this reactor was so secretive that nobody in Syria knew about its existence. Only the Israelis knew.


  • One must completely lack a sense of smell in order not to sense the heavy familiar scent emanating from this story: The scent of a political-intelligence spin incredibly similar to the pre-Iraq War spin. A sequence of circular and manipulative intelligence schemes, piles of nonsense premised on tidbits of information, and the exploitation of this entire mess for the sake of political objectives of various leaders and their camps, both here and in the United States.


As we excitedly read the Sunday Times legends and eagerly go over Aviation Week’s tales, we should dedicate a few minutes of thought to the abovementioned option as well.


פרסום ראשון: 11.07.07, 20:04
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