Report says Israeli air strike targeted Syrian nuclear reactor

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Flag of Israel.

Israel's air strike on Syria last month was an attempt to knock out a partially constructed nuclear reactor, according to officials with access to American and Israeli intelligence reports, the The New York Times reported on Sunday. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad previously said that Israeli jets had dropped bombs on an unused military building.

Although Syria has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a legal right to build a nuclear reactor for the purposes of generating electricity, and it is not obligated to disclose work on such a reactor during the early stages of construction.

According to The New York Times sources, the Bush administration was divided at the time over whether to support the Israeli attack. The article quotes an American official as saying that "[t]here wasn’t a lot of debate about the evidence [of the reactor's existence]", but that "[t]here was a lot of debate about how to respond to it."

The attack is reminiscent of a 1981 Israeli raid that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq shortly before it was scheduled to come online. Bush administration officials have stated that the 1981 attack set back Iraq's nuclear program by many years. The New York Times article quotes an Israeli official as saying that the purpose of the strike was to "re-establish the credibility of our deterrent power."