Haaretz has just published a story that will certainly disappear due to gag order. In it, Anshel Pfeffer writes that Gabi Ashkenazi prepared a video celebrating his achievements as chief of staff, which was screened at a party marking his final day on the job. What is extraordinary about the video is that among the successes of his time in office it credits the bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor and the Stuxnet virus attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel has never publicly acknowledged responsibility for either.
So either Ashkenazi has a monumental need to amplify himself and his heroic accomplishments before he faces the glare of police klieg lights; or he’s violated elemental secrecy rules regarding these two events (or both). It’s possible he got approval from the censor to include this material in his video, but it seems highly unlikely. To me it seems like a monumental screw-up. But maybe Israel has finally decided to ‘fess up.
Attendees at the party included former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan who also appeared in the video congratulating Ashkenazi for doin’ a helluva job. I wonder what Dagan thought of these revelations…
Rotter, one of Israel’s major online forums, where some of my work is posted and linked (and heckled) has allowed the image to the left to be published in their Scoops section, but removed two attempts to link to this post. What are they afraid of? I guess Rabbi Rotter is still a little sore at what I wrote about his son, Meir, who harrasses Sheikh Jarrah protesters regularly as a police officer in East Jerusalem.
UPDATE: Looks like I was wrong as Haaretz has posted the story online. Which goes to show that when you’re the chief of staff, even a corrupt one, you can get away with a helluva lot more than when you’re Anat Kamm.
The article doesn’t say the video actually admmited anything – only very strongly implied. This sort of thing is very common in israel, nothing I havn’t seen before.
Richard Silverstein says
Well, if the chief of staff wants to produce a video touting his achievements & it includes references to the Syrian attack & Stuxnet, can’t we say that’s the equivalent of ‘”nuff said?” Does he need to come right out on screen and say the words before we believe him?
Well everyone already knows israel did it. We don’t need to believe him. What would be a bigger deal is if they openly took responsibility, which, in israel’s crazy-land, they didn’t. Dagan also had that kind of praise. Peres is usually praised for his “textile” contributions.
Israel has always been struggling between it’s paranoid secrecy and it’s need to boast.
Richard, is there real evidence that what Israel bombed in Syria was in fact a nuclear reactor? If not, then your title is misleading.
Richard Silverstein says
It is generally accepted among most experts whose views I’ve read that it was. But no, there isn’t incontrovertible physical proof as far as I know.
I’m not asking for incontrovertible proof. I also do not accept as convincing evidence “generallly accepted” by “experts”, especially unnamed experts.
Richard Silverstein says
Fair enough. I think it’s fair to say there are those who doubt the evidence while there seem to be more that don’t. But doubting the evidence is a defensible position.
What difference does it make to your position if it really was a nuclear reactor or not? I assume you consider the attack to be blatant aggression against a neighbouring country in any case?
Or were it to be proven that it indeed were to have been a nuclear reactor that would somewhat mitigate the attack in your eyes?
There is strong evidence that the site that was bombed was a covert nuclear reactor that was under construction:
WSJ: Can I ask a broader question? I know the big issue in this region from Iran to Syria to Israel is of a region free of WMDs; nuclear free zone. On the one hand, I know Syria and other countries have been very interested in pushing Israelis to sign the NPT under international auspices and that does not happen, but at the same time is in a little bit of a conflict with IAEA over allegations that Syria has this kind of covered pursued nuclear technology. Can you talk about those and how to get to a nuclear free zone and beat your conflict with the IAEA and if there is a way to have a resolution over their accusations?
President Assad: We were a member of the Security Council for two tears, 2002 and 2003, and there was a Syrian draft at that time regarding freeing the Middle East from WMDs and of course who opposed that? The Bush administration, because it included Israel, and actually it is still there, and I think they gave it a blue form, I mean it is not activated. This is our point of view: that it has been a region of conflict for centuries not decades. Regarding the IAEA, Israel attacked this site and we said this is a military site. Of course at the beginning they did not say it is a nuclear site. They waited for eight months and after we rebuilt the site, they said it was a nuclear site. They should be punishing the United States and Israel, especially the United States: why did you wait eight months to say it is nuclear, this is the first point. The second point is what happened with IAEA. They asked us to send experts; and because we were very confident we told them you can come, and they came and took samples and went to Vienna I think, and then they said that they discovered some particles of radiations, and you know if you had a nuclear plant, you would not allow anyone in the world to come if you want to keep it secret, this is first. Second, they said Israel attacked a nuclear site under construction and before it started working. If it is under construction, and before it started working, how could you have these particles? Where did they come from? Because you do not bring the materials to the site till it is working, it is ready, is that true? This is second. Third, how can they destroy a site without having causalities, without having any emergency plans, because it is supposed to be nuclear? What about radiations? Everybody could go there now, it is open and you can cross beside it. So, it is clear to everyone that it was not nuclear, but the question is: why they waited for eight months? Because when you wait eight months and we rebuilt the site, it is easy for you to say it was, you understand that?
President Assad: Because if they believed it was nuclear, they should have done that without the attacking. If they want to create a problem for Syria, they could tell the IAEA: look we have the satellite images, go to Syria and Syria will be cornered. What to do, we have a site, we are going to allow them and they are going to see the site as it is. So, they destroyed it and they waited for Syria to build it, and then they said it was a nuclear site. Now “was” how can you prove “was”. Now, this is the convoluted issue, the complicated issue they created and how to prove it? So, as long as you cannot prove it was, then this means it “was”…
WSJ: And definitely it was not?
President Assad: Definitely it was not. From the course of events, it was not because if you attack it, how was it, where are the materials? We do not have it; the experts went there and you have normal live there, how could you have radiations after the attack and you do not have any emergency plans? They have the satellite and its pictures every day and they can tell. The only thing that we did is that we took the debris and removed it somewhere else and rebuilt the site. We did not clean and you cannot clean if you want to clean the radiations; they say it stays for one hundred years or forever I do not know. So, this is not realistic, they know this. The other issue of the IAEA is not related to, what we call a small experimental reactor, of course under the supervision of the IAEA and they come from time to time to Syria to check and they checked this time and discovered materials which they say are illegal and we are still discussing this with them and we do not know about it because we have a phosphate factory and we have yellow cakes as a result and some of our expert scientists made some experiments and the funny thing is that those experiments were published in journals; these experiments are not a secret and they said this is a breach. Okay, but this is public and it was published in a journal; it is not a secret. So, there was this kind of conflict and they want to find a link between this first site and the second site, but this one is different from that
John Farley says
Dear Richard Silverstein:
There are very serious doubts about whether the Syrian site was a nuclear reactor. See my article
Syrian Nukes: the Phantom Menace
which can be found at
I don’t know what experts you consulted, but you should have spoken with Joseph Cirincione, of the Center for American Progress. He says Israel bombed an arms depot, not a nuclear reactor.
As for Stuxnet, it seems to me that the analyst Cyrus Safdari raises very serious doubts about the official story. Safdari thinks that the Iranian enrichment effort has made progress in the last year. A number of countries have had a problem with Stuxnet, not just Iran. And his research indicates that the Stuxnet worm doesn’t show a particularly high degree of expertise.
I think you’re probably right. All the Israeli\US bashing on the Suxtnet story is probably unfounded and is yet another excuse for those who often like to criticise policies of Israel and the US.
Thanks for showing us that this is another example of “mossadophobia”
free man says
good work! (both Silverstein and Ashkenazi 😉
I believe the IAEA will be issuing a report soon stating that Syria has obstructed its requests to investigate the site and taking it to the SC for review. I can look for the article, but you can google IAEA and Syria for recent news on this.
Despite the fact that Mordechai Vanunu provided photographs of laboratory and production models of nuclear weapons cores, and that the Foreign Minister of Israel has suggested that it might be a good idea for Israel to drop a nuclear bomb on Gaza, the IAEA has rejected an Arab-backed resolution calling on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
That sort of behavior makes the agency look like little more than a political pawn.
If you look at what Egyptians discovered when they raided the STASI HQ in Alexandria, stuxnet may well be a product of this german company:
strangely they are in the same building as SIEMENS and SIEMENS ties in Israel are no secret either….