About eleven years ago, September 5-6, 2007 to be exact, Syria’s attempt to become a nuclear power came to a screeching halt thanks to the Israeli Air Force. On that night, four F-15I’s, four F-16I’s and, most likely, some serious Electronic Warfare aircraft took to the skies above Syria, and then Turkey on their way home, and thoroughly demolished the still under construction nuclear reactor located at Al Kibar, near present day Deir al-Zour in extreme northeastern Syria. Not surprisingly, this nuclear reactor bore a striking resemblance to one in Yongbyon, North Korea – especially since the North Koreans provided a great deal of assistance with the construction.
Up until this past week, everyone knew that the Israelis took out the reactor, though absolutely no one in Israel would even comment on this. Many articles have been written about this raid and I even alluded to it in The Gambit. Now, Israel has come out and told the world of their involvement and Joseph Trevithick of the War Zone has an excellent summary of it.
The obvious question about all of this is, why now? Is Israel sending a message to Iran that we’ve now done this twice before (remember the Osirak raid in Iraq back in 1981 which doomed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions?) – and we’re more than willing, and capable, of doing it a third time? Anthony Cordesman wrote an interesting piece on just this subject back in 2009 and can be seen here. That was nine years ago; if Israel had the capability then, I would expect that they haven’t been too idle simply waiting for what the Obama Administration had planned to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I’m pretty sure acknowledging Operation Orchard now is intended as a clear message to Iran – we’ve done this before, and we’re certainly willing to do it again.