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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2861

The Israeli Attack in Syria and The State Department Response

By Herbert London

The veil of secrecy surrounding the Israel invasion of what is alleged to be a Syrian nuclear facility on September 6 is understandable. Israel is not willing to disclose its military capabilities and technical advantages.

On the other hand, the secrecy is having and will continue to have a profoundly negative effect on United States' diplomatic credibility. Since North Korea was involved in one way or another with the Syrian facility either by providing enriched uranium, nuclear technology or plutonium, it makes sense to discuss Kim Il Jung's pernicious role in exporting nuclear material.

Yet the State Department, leading a discussion in the Six Party talks over North Korea's nuclear capability, does not want to upset the so-called apple-cart by describing North Korea's malevolent influence. Silence in this case is deadly, but the State Department goal is an agreement, however empty the ultimate result might be.

What hasn't been seriously entertained is the influence of silence on the talks in Annapolis and back channel conversations with the Iranians. If the United States chooses to avert its gaze to North Korea's mischief, the message being conveyed is that you can get away with a great deal if you negotiate with the U.S. and offer the illusion of conciliation.

In fact, diplomacy has become a weapon used against this government by our enemies mindful of our energetic pursuit of treaties. This is the twenty-first century version of the Munich Accord with appeasement the goal for State Department officials who do not know how to say "no."

Moreover, the hidden message at Annapolis is the U.S. wants a deal even if it means giving tacit support to terrorists and selling out our allies. What other conclusion can one reach if we are unwilling to blow the whistle on North Korean nuclear exports.

For some who believe it always pays to talk to adversaries (Obama Barack comes to mind), it should be noted that negotiations can serve as a cover for violent acts. In the haste to produce an "understanding" the U.S. can overlook or rationalize any action that might jeopardize a treaty. Yet as history has demonstrated treaties are worthless if one of the parties chooses to ignore its terms. Think of the Kellogg-Briand pact or the Locarno Treaty.

It should be noted that in addition to the dissemination of nuclear material, the North Koreans have provided every rogue state in the Middle East with missile technology to deliver weapons of mass destruction. The SCUD arsenal in Iran, for example, has its provenance in North Korea.

There are times in foreign affairs when silence is golden. As already noted, I can appreciate Israel's reluctance to discuss details of its September 6 attack. But the U.S. is in a different position vis-à-vis North Korea and its involvement with possible Syrian nuclear material. This disclosure warrants transparency in my judgment.

Unfortunately the State Department wants deals more than disclosure. As a consequence, the full story of North Korea's involvement with Syria won't be known in the short term. But there is something we do know: Israel would not have attacked unless the material in question was a direct threat to its security and Syria would not have cleaned up the site unless the material might prove to be an embarrassment.

What we also know is North Korea's involvement in this imbroglio, since a North Korean vessel carrying sensitive material was monitored by Israeli surveillance satellites days before it arrived in Syria. The key question that remains open is why the State Department maintains secrecy about this matter. But, than again, I think I know the answer to this question.

Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of Decade of Denial (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001).

- Asian Tribune -

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