Syrian Muscle Flexing

Frank Crimi is a San Diego-based writer and author of the book Raining Frogs and Heart Attacks. You can read more of Frank's work at his blog,

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When Syria recently rejected efforts by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect a nuclear facility near al-Kibar in eastern Syria, it was the latest of a series of provocations by Syria, aided by Iran, designed to exert its regional influence amid the ongoing unrest in the Middle East.

The al-Kibar nuclear reactor, built with North Korean assistance, was believed to be nearly operational before it was bombed and destroyed by the Israeli air force in September 2007. Although the Syrians have denied it was a nuclear installation, it has prevented inspection of the al-Kibar facility since 2008 after the IAEA found traces of possessed uranium at the site.

Now, concerns exist that the al-Kibar reactor has been rebuilt and is more advanced than ever.  According to a report released by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), satellite images show Syria has built three nuclear facilities in addition to the one destroyed near al-Kibar Those three storage installations near Marj as-Sultan, 15 miles east of Damascus, were confirmed to have equipment in line with “what would be expected in a small uranium conversion facility”

While not directly addressing the ISIS findings, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preferred to take a more diplomatic route when he said, “I want to make it clear that if Syria strives for peace, it will find a loyal partner in Israel.”

However, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, Moshe Ya’alon, was not as hesitant to avoid the real issue. Accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad as a man possessed with “negative intentions,” he pointedly warned: “I hope Assad will not challenge us with provocations of this kind.”

Yet, if anything, Syria seems extremely intent on provoking Israel. Days before the ISIS report was released, two Iranian warships, both armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, crossed through the Suez Canal and headed to the Syrian port of Latakia, marking the first time Iranian warships had crossed the Suez Canal since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Shortly after the ships docked at Latakia, Syria and Iran agreed to participate in joint naval training exercises.

On the same day the naval agreement was announced, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Russia would fulfill a contractual agreement signed in 2007 and supply Syria with cruise missiles, despite the objections of both Israel and the United States.
Publicly, the appearance of the Iranian warships in Syria was downplayed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak who said “I don’t like it, but I don’t think that any one of us should be worried by it.” That view was echoed by Moshe Ya’alon: “It certainly does not bode well, but these two ships are not an immediate threat against us.

However, those sentiments were contrasted by one Israeli official who called the move “an Iranian provocation,” adding “When you look at the Middle East, wherever the Iranians weigh in, the situation is never good.” As if to prove his point, the Israelis placed their navy on high alert.

Moreover, others, like Israel’s top Iran expert, Menashe Amir, stressed that Iran’s long-term plan is to establish a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean. With Iran already in possession of over 300 Shahab missiles that can reach any part of Israel from Iran, the deployment of some of those missiles on the two Iranian warships would not only pose a lethal threat to Israel but to all of Europe.

For Syria, its confidence to ratchet up such an aggressive agenda with its Shiite partner Iran can be traced to the fact that it has in recent months been able to be rewarded for its past and present terrorist actions.

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  • mohammed

    Just to correct your mistake, I dont think the editor caught it..

    You are confusing Hafez Al Assad with Bashar Al-Assad the current President of Syria.
    Your whole article is misleading because you confuse the actions of these two men. You also fail to mention that it was the Muslim brotherhood uprisings that occurred in Syria and Egypt, not a movement of the masses.

    Your article also goes from misleading to obvious lying. It is really disappointing how bias this article is and its portrayal of Syria and the Syrian citizen.

    The reality is that Israel is doing all of the bombing, all of the occupying and maintains an apartheid state that regularly and routinely kills and ignites wars with its neighbours… The arabs have finally awoken and are dusting themselves off after downfall of western imposed tyrants.. If Israel does not respect any laws, and continues its delusional and crazy actions against the arabs the arabs will force israel to respect the peace.

    • MixMChess

      "The reality is that Israel is doing all of the bombing…"

      Nope, Hamas has been the only party engaged in bombing and firing rockets at Israeli children. Between 2001 and January 2009 alone, Hamas fired over 8,600 rockets into Israel murdering 28 civilians and seriously injuring and maiming thousands more.

      "…all of the occupying…"

      Over 85% of the Jewish National Homeland is currently illegally occupied by Arabs. Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and over 98% of the W. Bank is autonomously governed by the Palestinian Authority. Israel has already promised to further dismantle settlements in the W. Bank and give Israeli land to Palestinians as part of a final negotiated settlement for peace.

      "…and maintains an apartheid state…"

      Today, within Israel, Jews are a majority, but the Arab minority are full citizens who enjoy guaranteed equal rights under the law and are represented in all the branches of government. Under apartheid, "black South Africans could not vote and were not citizens of the country in which they formed the overwhelming majority of the population. Laws dictated where they could live, work and travel. And, in South Africa, the government killed blacks who protested against its policies." By contrast, Israel allows "freedom of movement, assembly and speech." In fact, "some of the government’s harshest critics are Israeli Arabs who are members of the Knesset."

      "…that regularly and routinely kills and ignites wars with its neighbours…"

      This is laughable at best considering in 1948 when Israel declared its independence the surrounding Arab nations promptly invaded in a war of genocide and extermination of the Jews. The 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars were all instigated by Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Since 1987 the Palestinians have been waging a genocidal war against Israel with terrorist and rocket attacks.

      Seriously, get a clue.

  • Yuri

    Almost every single article about Syria these days reeks of Israel propaganda. They're trying to portrait Syria as an agressor, or as a collaborator of an agressor, but the only agressor in the Middle East is Israel, and it's always been Israel since the very moment this puppet country was created.

    My prayers is with Syrian people, and I hope they will stay strong in this difficult time.

    With the best wishes from Russia.

    • MixMChess

      "…but the only agressor in the Middle East is Israel, and it's always been Israel since the very moment this puppet country was created."

      in 1948 when Israel declared its independence the surrounding Arab nations, including Syria, promptly invaded in a war of genocide and extermination of the Jews. Syria again initiated aggression with Israel in 1967 and 1973.

      Besides Israel, Syria has been a force of instability in the region. In 1976, Syria intervened in the Lebanese civil war. Syria’s deployment of surface-to-air missile batteries in Lebanon, and its policy of allowing the PLO and other terrorist groups to attack Israel from there, helped trigger the 1982 Lebanon War. In 1982, Syrian agents murdered President-elect Bashir Gemayel in Lebanon. Syria has supported Hezobollah and participated in terrorist attacks against Israel as well as French and American military personnel in Lebanon.

      The 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars were all instigated by Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Since 1987 the Palestinians have been waging a genocidal war against Israel with terrorist and rocket attacks.

      Syria aggressively

  • Leib

    1967 was a classic Syrian/Russian act that provoked war by their phony claims of Israeli actions against Syria. Nasser chided by Syria for inaction tossed out the UN buffer force and blockaded the straits. The Russian/Syrian alliance of two tyrannies (Putin's KGB is a worthy successor to the Soviets) has brought misery to the Middle East. The previous comment makers don't fool anyone who pays reasonable attention to the facts. Analysts of Iranian and Syrian hegemonic moves of late should add Russia to their calculations as both these middle eastern nations are Russian clients and there efforts in the Med will benefit Russia's hegemonic ambitions in both the Gulf and the Mediterranian.

  • dmaak112

    Crimi’s story really takes on a flight of fancy. Israel occupies Syrian territory, not the other way around. Israeli fighters cross into Syrian airspace with impunity, not the other way around. Israel crushes hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on daily basis. Israel threatens Lebanon with destruction if the Lebanese do not do as they say. Neocons in DC are hyperventilating about the “threat” that Egypt now poses to Israel. Perhaps Crimi can write about the only country in the Middle East that does have nuclear arms. Perhaps Crimi can negotiate with Syria and have the IAEA inspect all suspected Syrian nuclear sites the SAME TIME THEY INSPECT ALL ISRAELI SUSPECTED NUCLEAR SITES. Perhaps Crimi can explain why the only country in the Mideast who has refused all calls for a nuclear free Mideast is Israel. What Crimi is doing is trying to provide a cover for more Israeli aggression.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    That "popping" sound you hear is mohammed extracting his head from his rosy red rectum.