Syria strike: US shared intelligence with Israel

By Leonard Doyle

Before it bombed Syria, Israel provided the US with intelligence suggesting that North Korea was secretly supplying Damascus with nuclear technology, The Washington Post newspaper claimed yesterday.

However, there is considerable scepticism of the intelligence that prompted Israel’s attack, with some proliferation experts querying whether Syria is even attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. The quality of the Israeli intelligence is also unknown, as is the extent of North Korean co-operation. Some people have suggested that a North Korean ship merely unloaded items it no longer needed.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the details of the intelligence, which President George Bush was handed during the summer. The US reportedly corroborated some of the original intelligence it received from Israel, but fears remained that any immediate action would bring an end to negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme.

The target of the Israeli bombers was reported to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. To maintain secrecy, the details of the mission were given to the pilots who conducted the attack only after they were in the air, the newspaper said.

The Israeli intelligence included satellite images, according to anonymous sources quoted by the paper. Most details about the alleged North Korean-Syrian connection remain unknown.

At a press conference on Thursday, President Bush refused to answer questions about Israel’s air strikes in Syria. “I’m not going to comment on the matter,” Mr Bush said.

Israel is also refusing to discuss the raid, although Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party, told Israeli television that he knew of the operation. In Syria, officials said its air defence forced Israel’s jets to flee. It has also warned that it may retaliate.

Syria has denied receiving North Korean nuclear technology and Pyongyang has also denied any such deal.