The Spectator

An inconvenient truth

The Spectator on the Israeli airstrike on a Syrian nuclear facility

In its 6 October 2007 edition, The Spectator reported on Israel’s air-strike on Syria exactly a month before. We noted that the 6 September raid ‘may have saved the world from a devastating threat’ and revealed that a senior British ministerial source had told us that: ‘If people had known how close we came to world war three that day there’d have been mass panic.’

The article provoked scepticism in certain quarters. In the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, the veteran American journalist, sneered that our coverage was ‘overheated’. But information declassified by the Bush administration last week — under pressure from Congress, it should be stressed — suggests that it is Hersh’s temperature controls, rather than The Spectator’s, which need adjusting.

In a briefing to Congress badgered out of the administration after seven months of evasion, the CIA — basing its conclusions on video, satellite images and other visual evidence — said that what the Israelis had hit was a plutonium-producing reactor that the Syrians had been building with North Korean expertise. To be clear, this means that North Korea was — and probably still is — happy to share its nuclear knowledge with other rogue states.

Some still refuse to believe the evidence presented. To them, the denials from Damascus carry more weight than the briefings from Washington. After the debacle of Iraq, the British dossiers and Colin Powell’s notorious briefing to the UN Security Council, it is understandable that there is public scepticism about the reliability of Western intelligence. But it is dangerous when scepticism conspires with wishful thinking: and it is wishful thinking to imagine that, because the threat of WMD in Iraq was exaggerated, no such threat can exist anywhere else.

The geopolitical context is, in any case, very different.

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