Syrian Ramifications (Extract)

Extract from an article in issue 3, May 26, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Former Military Intelligence chief Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash says Syrian President Bashar Asad is serious (about peace), but he won't give up the terror card until he sees substantial gains U.S. Congressional hearings in late April proved beyond doubt that a Syrian facility, which according to foreign sources was destroyed by Israel last September, was a North Korean-style nuclear reactor built with aid from Pyongyang. The hearings also revealed that the reactor was about to go critical and could have produced enough plutonium for a nuclear bomb in about a year. Israel has studiously avoided acknowledging responsibility for the September bombing of the reactor in order to avoid tension with Damascus. Since then, Israel and Syria have stepped up peace feelers through Turkish mediation. In a wide-ranging interview with The Report, Ze'evi-Farkash discusses the impact of the Washington hearings, the Iranian bomb program and the complexity of peacemaking with Syria. The Jerusalem Report: Could the Congressional hearings put Israeli intelligence sources at risk? Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash: Yes. But if we look at the big picture, what happened in Washington revealed the degree of North Korean nuclear proliferation. And, on balance, I think the advantages for Israel outweighed the disadvantages. How does the fact that someone destroyed the Syrian nuclear program impact on the balance of power in the Middle East? Israel's 1981 action against the Tammuz One reactor in Iraq was based on prime minister Menachem Begin's policy not to allow any hostile Middle Eastern country to develop weapons that could jeopardize Israel's existence. On the assumption that the foreign reports are accurate, the action against Syria underlines Israel's resolve to adhere to the Begin doctrine. The supreme test of that doctrine will come at the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010, when Iran has enough fissionable material to produce a nuclear weapon. Should the U.S. congressional hearings be seen as a warning to Iran? I think it was more a case of showing that North Korea is not abiding by the 2007 Beijing agreement under which it promised to refrain from nuclear proliferation. But it also sends a message to Iran, which says: "Look at what happened in Syria and look at what we are doing to make North Korea stick to its promises. And if you don't stop your nuclear weapons' program in time, you will be next." Extract from an article in issue 3, May 26, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.