Kim Jong Il 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The world, it's fair to say, doesn't like North Korea. Indeed, it's a tough country to love, especially since dictator Kim Jong Il lets his people starve while he tests various nuclear devices.
It is also fair to say that the world, for the most part, dislikes the idea of a nuclear Middle East. Witness French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's recent comment that France should prepare for the possibility of war over Iran's nuclear program.
So add North Korea together with foreign reports of nukes in the Middle East, and what you get is a situation for which the international community has very little patience.
And that, according to foreign new reports, is what the IAF's excursion into Syrian skies the other night was all about: stopping the proliferation, via North Korea, of nuclear capability to the Middle East.
While on an existential level, the prospect of Syrian President Bashar Assad - deep in cahoots with Hizbullah and Hamas - in possession of anything nuclear is deeply frightening, and if we believe the foreign reports, on a diplomatic level the fact that the world media is writing "North Korea," "nuclear cache" and "Syria" together in the same sentence could actually be beneficial for Israel.
First of all, if indeed the alleged IAF sortie over Syria had to do with a nuclear shipment from Pyongyang, then Israel's stock has to go up because it will be seen in a few key capitals as the force that will not allow nuclear proliferation in the region.
It is interesting to note, by the way, the resounding lack of condemnation - either in Europe or even in the Arab world - to Israel's alleged attack.
Secondly, the alleged North Korean nuclear connection will put Damascus - already not in the world's good graces - even more on the defensive.
It's one thing to harbor terrorists who want to destroy Israel, it's another thing to allegedly have been involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but it is something different entirely to get into the same nuclear bed with North Korea.
If the first two offensives are, in the eyes of the world, pardonable because of various bilateral interests, the third would be much more difficult to forgive. The alleged Syrian-North Korean connection could move Syria from being just an unpopular state to being a pariah regime.
And Damascus doesn't want pariah state status. Syria, which has shown that it does want contact with the outside world, has no desire to be quarantined and ostracized as North Korea has been.
Which is where certain diplomatic opportunities just may present themselves.
Damascus, it is safe to assume, will want to shrug off a North Korean image and present itself as a responsible player on the international scene. It has even expressed interest in coming to the international Middle East meeting that the US is planning later this year.
The allegations of a North Korean-Syrian connection could make the time ripe, therefore, for Israel to push the world to place certain conditions on Syria's being accepted back into the international fold.
The conditions are obvious, and ones that Israel has been demanding - without any success at all - for years: kicking the terrorist organizations out of Damascus, first and foremost Hamas and its leader Khaled Mashaal, and an end to the support and the supply of weapons to Hizbullah.
In the past Syria has just ignored these calls. But now, in order to avoid being seen as North Korea's kid brother, it may have no choice but to pay a little attention.
The alleged connection to North Korea makes Syria vulnerable. The question is whether the world will seize the moment.
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