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12 October 2007 - Turkey assents to the Israeli Raid on Syria

The attack by Israeli warplanes on a Syrian target has perplexed international commentators. The attach apparently took place on 6 September 2007 on a target at Dayr az-Zawr, in north east Syria.

The first report of the incident came from the Syrians, who said their air defences fired at an Israeli warplane that had penetrated Syrian airspace and dropped explosives. The plane/s then exited Syrian airspace, travelling towards the Mediterranean via Turkey.

Turkey then announced that two Israeli fuel tanks had been dropped inside Turkish territory, one near Gaziantep and the other near Antakya. From this one can infer that the aircraft came under fire and jettisoned fuel tanks to increase speed and manoeuvrability.

Initially both Israel and the USA made no press release.

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It now appears that the Israeli attack on Dayr az Zawr was linked to the import of nuclear materials from North Korea. The attack was apparently coordinated with a land incursion into Syria by an Israeli Sayeret Matkal unit, based on a covert SAS style operation. It is understood that the Israeli troops were disguised in Syrian uniforms. The ground troops assisted the warplanes to locate the target.

The nature of the targeted materials remains unclear, although it is generally thought that Syria has been importing nuclear materials from North Korea for some time. These materials could either by used by Syria for her own purposes, or shipped on to Iran, or Hezbollah in the Lebanon.

Our sources in Ankara advise that several warplanes were involved, and their route was closely monitored by the US airbase in Incirlik, south east Turkey. The F-151s entered Turkish airspace from the Mediterranean north of Antakya and crossed into Syria near Ceylanpinar. The jets travelled west of Al Hasakah and onwards to the target at Dayr az-Zawr. They returned by the same route. We do not have confirmation on the number of planes in the raid.

The first report of the daring raid came from Syria. They stated that their air defences opened fire on several Israeli jets that had illegally entered their airspace. The planes then left Syria, and returned to Israel via Turkey. Sources in Turkey then disclosed that two fuel tanks from Israeli F-151s had been jettisoned, one near Gaziantep and the other near Antakya. This is normal practice in order to increase air speed and manoeuvrability.

The relative silence from all sides is due to the current sensitivity concerning US and North Korean relations. During the summer of 2007, North Korea publicly shifted its position on its nuclear program. They agreed to effectively abandon it and allow inspections of facilities. They also made a commitment to non proliferation, without admitting that shipments and assistance had already been provided to a number of third parties, including Syria and Iran.

The desire of the USA to build on the fragile agreement with North Korea is the reason why the attack has been shrouded in secrecy. George Bush has refrained from celebrating a success against the Ďaxis of evil' and Israel is quietly satisfied with the success of the mission and the message it sends to both Syria and Iran.

The fact that the Israeli jets flew over Turkey has aroused interest. Taken together with our information that the US base at Incirlik assisted in route planning, Turkey would appear to have known in advance about the raid.

At the official level, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan called the incident "unacceptable." He warned against acts that cause tensions, saying they could harm peace and stability in the region. He spoke during a news conference in Ankara on 10 September 2007 with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem.

However, it is well known that Turkey and Israel have a longstanding record of co-operations in military and security matters. Relations between Turkey and Israel are most often described as "strategic." The two countries have for years maintained open and secret relations, fostering a deep understanding of the need to preserve this unique link, despite changes in the Turkish political scene and strengthening Islamic bloc.

One of the foundations of Turkish-Israeli relations is close cooperation of the armies and security services of the two countries. When tensions rose during the intifada of 2000 and the Second Lebanon War of July 2006, security relations with Turkey remained stable.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida ,the Turkish military had a central role in delivering precise information on the targets in Syria that were to be attacked by Israeli warplanes.

The newspaper claimed that the Israeli pilots were given authorization by the Turkish intelligence last week to use its airspace to carry out the operation, although they did not coordinate the move with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Such claims could be aimed at undermining relations between Syria and Turkey in a bid to weaken the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his AK party won a landslide victory against its secular rivals in snap elections in the country.

The fact remains that tension between Turkey and Syria has been increased by this incident. The confirmation of Abdullah Gul as President of Turkey in early September will be a welcome sign to the Muslim world that the Turkish government is unlikely to move away from its populist religious roots in its efforts to join the EU.

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Copyright - Leslie Hardy, 12 October 2007

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