Weekend long read

1) Khaled Abu Toameh takes a look at Lebanese reactions to a proposed new law concerning the management of Palestinian refugee camps.

“Like most Arab countries, Lebanon has long treated Palestinians as second-class citizens. It has been depriving them of basic rights, including citizenship, employment, heath care, education, social services and property ownership. The vast majority of the 450,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon do not have Lebanese citizenship.

In 2001, the Lebanese Parliament passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property, and Lebanese law also restricts their ability to work in as many as 20 professions. Lebanon continues to ignore calls by various human rights groups to the Lebanese authorities to end discrimination against Palestinians.”

2) At the INSS, Eldad Shavit and Sima Shine examine ‘The Dispute Between the United States and Iran – Scenarios and Implications’.

“The dispute between the United States and Iran is taking place on two levels: The American administration is adhering to its policy of placing “maximum pressure” on the Iranian regime, while Iran is adopting a new policy in place of the “tolerance” that it had demonstrated thus far, in order to show the United States, and especially the other countries that signed the Nuclear Agreement—particularly the European partners—the costs they are liable to pay for continuing the sanctions. At the same time, in an attempt to prevent a deterioration, given the tensions that have developed recently in the Gulf, efforts are being made to find channels of dialogue between the two countries. At present, assuming that Iran is not interested in “upsetting the apple cart,” one of following three main scenarios could develop: a continuation of the gradual and cautious erosion (over time) of the Iranian commitments according to the agreement (JCPOA); Iran’s quick withdrawal from its commitments, including from fulfilling the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, and significantly reducing cooperation with the agency; or the beginning of new negotiations with the Trump administration.”

3) Mosaic Magazine has a podcast interview with Yaakov Katz about his new book.

“On September 6, 2007, shortly after midnight, Israeli planes advanced on Deir ez-Zour in the desert of eastern Syria. Israel often flew into Syrian air space as a warning to President Bashar al-Assad, but this time there was no warning and no explanation. The planes were on a covert mission with one goal: to destroy a nuclear reactor being built, with the aid of North Korea, under a tight veil of secrecy. The pilots succeeded brilliantly, and Israel stopped Syria from becoming a nuclear-armed state: a nightmare in the Middle East.

That’s the story Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz tells in his latest book Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power.”

4) MEMRI reports on the situation in Sudan.

“The honeymoon is over in Khartoum. There was a short period of ambiguity and hope between April 11, 2019 when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was removed from power by his own generals and June 3, 2019 when security forces brutally killed over a hundred peaceful demonstrators and subsequently called for snap elections in seven months.

During that short seven-week period, there was a chance, and even some real indications, that a very Sudanese solution – fragile, confused, but hopeful – would have been found along the lines of previous transitions from military dictatorship to civilian rule. Hopes that 2019 would be something of a repeat of 1964 and 1985 have, at least for now, been dashed although it should not be forgotten that both previous transitions to democracy were brief and led back to dictatorship after a few years. Sudan is closer to the edge and it seems that a much more violent future could be in the cards if another misstep is made.”

 

 

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BBC News still not sure al Kibar was a nuclear reactor

On March 21st the BBC News website produced written and filmed reports about Israel’s acknowledgement of air strikes that destroyed a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez Zor region of Syria over a decade ago.

Not for the first time however, the BBC was obviously keen to communicate to audiences that there is room for doubt concerning the nature of the target.

The filmed report is headlined “Israeli footage of 2007 air strike on Syria ‘reactor’” and its synopsis reads:

“Israel has for the first time confirmed that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria in 2007.” [emphasis added]

At the top of the written report – titled “Israel admits striking suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007” – readers find the same video captioned “Israeli military video footage showing air strike on suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007″ and the article similarly opens: [emphasis added]

“Israel has for the first time confirmed that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria in 2007.

The military said fighter jets bombed the al-Kibar facility in Deir al-Zour province, 450km (280 miles) north-east of Damascus, as it neared completion.

Syria’s government has repeatedly denied that it was building a reactor.”

In a section headed “from the archive” readers find old BBC reports in which Syrian regime propaganda was amplified.

Linking to a BBC report from May 2011, readers are later told that:

“The Syrian military did not retaliate after the attack. President Bashar al-Assad said only that Israel had “bombed buildings and construction related to the military”, which were “not used”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in 2011 that the site was “very likely” to have been a nuclear reactor.

Syria had signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) before the strike, which gave it the right to build a reactor to generate electricity. But it was also obliged to notify the IAEA of any plans to construct a nuclear facility.”

Readers however learn nothing of more concrete statements from the IAEA’s head or of various US statements on the topic of the al Kibar reactor.

The article includes analysis from the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman under the heading “Why is Israel making this public now?”, with Bateman’s theory being that the confirmation is related to Iran and the JCPOA.

“Israel accuses Iran of maintaining nuclear ambitions – amounting to an existential threat – and believes its forces are trying to establish themselves permanently over its northern border in Syria – a claim Iran rejects.

The country may hope to add a sharper military edge to American diplomatic pressure on Europe to toughen its stance on the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers – an agreement detested by Israel.”

However, Bateman refrains from informing BBC audiences of factors such as those listed by former IDF spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner in an article at the Forward:

“First, the strike had already been reported widely in the international media, rendering it difficult for the censor to maintain the ban.

Second, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wrote a biography while in prison and revealed some of the details. His book is scheduled to be released tomorrow.

Third, Israeli Channel 10 appealed the Supreme Court to remove the ban, forcing the defense establishment to review the scope of the censored story.”

At the Times of Israel, Judah Ari Gross notes that:

“There was no one reason given for the decision to remove the censorship on the al-Kibar strike, but it most likely came from a variety of considerations, among them repeated legal appeals by media outlets to get rid of the ban.

It is easiest to see this announcement as a not-so-subtle threat aimed at atomically ambitious Iran, especially given the fact that in the coming months US President Donald Trump may abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, unless significant alterations are made to it. […]

Ultimately, though, the immediate cause for the timing of the revelation might be a bit more banal: Ehud Olmert wrote a memoir, which is due to be distributed shortly. […]

How could Olmert, who left office under police investigation and was later sent to prison for corruption, and who sustained bitter criticism over his mishandling of the 2006 Lebanon war, leave out one of his crowning, lasting achievements?”

Bateman also tells readers that “[i]t was never in any real doubt that Israel was behind the strike on the al-Kibar facility in the Syrian desert a decade ago” but remarkably, the BBC continues to find it appropriate to suggest to its audiences the idea that Israel went to the trouble of carrying out such a complicated and risky operation on a target that may not have been a nuclear reactor at all. 

Related Articles:

BBC defence correspondent: Al Kibar was a ‘suspected’ nuclear facility

 

 

 

 

BBC defence correspondent: Al Kibar was a ‘suspected’ nuclear facility

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it was. US intelligence says it was. The BBC, however, is apparently not convinced.

If you happened to be watching BBC television news coverage on the subject of a potential Western attack in Syria on August 28th you could hardly have failed to miss the repeated broadcast of an item by BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale which also appears on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “How would Syria respond to military action?“. 

Beale

Beale opens his report:

“Military strikes against Syria have been carried out before. In 2007 in Operation Orchard, Israeli jets targeted a suspected nuclear facility in the north of the country – successfully as these satellite photos show – before and then after.” [emphasis added]

More than two years ago the IAEA stated that the Al Kibar facility near Deir ez Zor was a nuclear reactor in the final stages of construction.

“The UN nuclear agency on Thursday said for the first time that a target destroyed by Israeli warplanes in the Syrian desert five yearsBefore and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was reportedly struck by Israel in 2007 (AP/DigitalGlobe)  ago was a covertly built nuclear reactor, countering assertions by Syria that it had no atomic secrets to hide.

Previous reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency have suggested that the structure hit could have been a nuclear reactor. Thursday’s comments by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano were the first time the agency has said so unequivocally. […]

“The facility that was … destroyed by Israel was a nuclear reactor under construction,” he asked in response to a question from The Associated Press, repeating to the AP afterward: “It was a reactor under construction.” “

More than five years ago American national security officials briefed Congress on the issue.

“It was constructed by the Syrians in the eastern desert of Syria along the Euphrates River on the east side. The Syrians constructed this reactor for the production of plutonium with the assistance of the North Koreans.”

The US administration at the time knew exactly what Al Kibar was even before the strike took place.

“The facts about al-Kibar were soon clear, and about those facts there was no debate: It was a nuclear reactor that was almost an exact copy of the Yongbyon reactor in North Korea, and North Koreans had been involved with Syria’s development of the site. Given its location and its lack of connection to any electrical grid, this reactor was part of a nuclear-weapons program rather than intended to produce electric power.”

By unnecessarily inserting the word ‘suspected’ when describing what the top authority on the subject says unequivocally was a nuclear facility Jonathan Beale is clearly both misleading BBC audiences and in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy.