Friday, September 21, 2007

This Week's Theme: The Rot Within

Surprise Air Attack Destroys Syrian Nuke Site

Did your local newspaper banner this headline? If not, why not?

Here is the newspaper of record's report (New York Times): Israeli Nuclear Suspicions Linked to Raid in Syria:

The Sept. 6 attack by Israeli warplanes inside Syria struck what Israeli intelligence believes was a nuclear-related facility that North Korea was helping to equip, according to current and former American and Israeli officials.

The Sept. 6 strike was carried out several days after a ship with North Korean cargo tracked by Israeli intelligence docked in a Syrian port, according to the current and former officials. The cargo was transferred to the site that Israel later attacked, the officials said. It is unclear exactly what the shipment contained. A former top American official said the Israelis had monitored the site for some time before the ship arrived. The ship’s arrival in Syria before the raid was first reported Saturday by The Washington Post.

Here is a "This is all hysteria planted by politically motivated intelligence operatives" take on the story: Did Israel Strike a Syrian Nuclear Facility?

And here is a "this is a message to Iran" story: : Ex-UN envoy: IAF action in Syria is 'message to Iran' over nukes

Former United Nations ambassador John Bolton said Sunday that Israel's reported military operation inside Syria earlier this month should be regarded as a 'clear message to Iran' that its nuclear efforts will not be ignored by the international community.

Meanwhile, the generally pacifist French government is rattling sabers: Sarkozy: Iran trying to have nuke bomb:

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday directly accused Tehran of seeking to develop atomic weapons but insisted that France did not want a war with Iran over its nuclear program.

"Iran is trying to obtain an atomic bomb," Sarkozy charged. "That is unacceptable and I tell the French people it is unacceptable."

The Iranian nuclear question "is an extremely difficult affair, but France does not want a war," he said in a prime-time interview on TF1 and France 2 television.

Sarkozy distanced himself from remarks by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who caused a diplomatic storm in an interview Sunday when he said "we have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war."

My point here: why is literally none of this on the front page of my regional newspapers-- or yours? Wouldn't you call an air attack an act of war, and the destruction of nuclear facilities of some importance? Isn't it worthy of serious, sustained coverage?

More to the point: how would this headline effect global and U.S. financial markets? Do you reckon global markets would cheer open warfare in the Mideast, and the high likelihood of disruptions in the flow of petroleum from the Gulf? Would the current euphoria in the U.S. stock market falter?

Isn't it rather curious that these major events have attracted so little attention in the Mainstream Media? Why? Could it be that the media is so wedded to the financial status quo that any "news" which threatens that status quo is relegated to "not news"?

This gaping void proves that the media is highly selective in its emphasis and coverage--and lends support to the idea that any story which threatens the financial status quo is suppressed, dismissed or buried.

Setting aside any bias in this story, we can ask some glaringly obvious questions:

Why would Israel openly attack Syria, going up against a modern air defense system?

Why would Syria do nothing after being openly attacked but issue a bland press release?

Why are North Koreans in Syria, and what was shipped from a poverty-stricken pariah state halfway around the world and trucked to a remote desert site in Syria?

Despite a formidable Russian-supplied air defense system, why couldn't Syria shoot down any of the attacking aircraft? It seems safe to assume that they would have shot down the attackers if they could.

Why would the generally pacifist French choose this month to issue a warning to Iran?

Are there are useful lessons to be drawn from this attack vis a vis Iran's blatant nuclear ambitions and the potential threat such weapons pose to Israel?

Would open warfare in the Mideast have any discernable effect on oil supplies, inventories and prices?

These are just a few obvious questions from an amateur's perspective. Why isn't the MSM asking the same, or even more incisive, questions, and attempting some answers?

Since no one else seems to be offering much analysis, allow me to step into the breach with a very basic bit of data: a map of iran's oil facilities:

One needn't be a military analyst to note a few things of interest here.

1. Count the major pipelines carrying oil and gas. There are perhaps a dozen major pipelines--not many for such a large oil-producing nation. And it sure looks like they snake through some barren/unpopulated stretches of the country. Once the air defense system was suppressed/destroyed/compromised/degraded, how hard would it be to bomb every major pipeline in several places?

2. There appears to be only seven major refineries.

3. There appears to be only five tanker port facilities.

4. There appears to be no more than two dozen major petroleum chokepoints within the complex, in addition to the ones mentioned above. These critical facilities mostly lie at some distance from cities, suggesting that civilian casualties would be very low were the targets hit with guided munitions.

5. Adding these up, we observe that hitting 50 targets would essentially cripple Iran's entire petroleum complex. It's impossible not to notice this extremely limited number of major targets.

While it can be assumed Iran has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide its nuclear facilities, it can be surmised that these are also few in number.

It can also be surmised that even if an attacking force had no clue where the nuclear facilities were located, the oil-producing facilities are all above ground and easily targeted. Once the petroleum complex is essentially destroyed, then Iran's nuclear ambitions will be put on the back burner due to the lack of electricity, gasoline, oil--and cash.

We can also surmise that the attacking force understands that global oil prices will undoubtedly skyrocket in the wake of an attack which cripples 2 - 3 million barrels a day of production, and is willing to pay the higher prices such an attack would inevitably cause.

If the target was the destruction of Iran's petroleum producing and refining capacity, there is no need to invade with ground forces; the destruction could be accomplished in a short time span with a relatively limited number of aircraft sorties.

Why am I even discussing Iran's petroleum producing complex? Because it is extraordinarily vulnerable to a coordinated air attack which degrades air defenses and deploys guided munitions. There is no need to for "shock and awe"--just a steady erosion of Iranian air defense, after which the oil complex could be methodically destroyed.

Who might cheer the destruction of Shit'ite Iran's oil production? Sunni oil producers? Or perhaps any nation poised to reap immense profits from the sudden jump in oil prices?

All of this is just an amateur's first glance at a story and a simple map. But shouldn't we be reading in-depth analysis in our daily papers, and watching some reporting on these vital issues on TV? And if we aren't seeing these issues examined on the front page, we have to ask: why not? Who gains from the public's ignorance and complacency?

Thank you, Dave.S., ($60) for your most-appreciated donation via check to this humble site, which probably shares many readers of your own excellent blog. I am greatly honored by your encouragement and readership. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.

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