Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Reaction to North Korea - 'We Told You So'

by David Bedein

From Israel’s perspective, North Korea’s nuclear test, conducted Monday, was almost old news. Although the world was shocked when the news broke, Israeli security and Foreign Ministry officials could have said: “We told you so.”

Sources in the Israeli security establishment say they have been reporting on the connections between North Korea and Iran since the mid-1990s, when they started warning that North Korean technology was behind Iran’s Shahab missile. North Korean military, missile and nuclear experts have roamed the planet, mainly in the Middle East, seeking to sell their technologies to the highest bidder.

“And two years ago we reported - and backed it up with documentation - that North Korea was building Syria a nuclear reactor, and after we told them, we also attacked and destroyed it, to make sure that the threat was removed,” the sources said.

From Israel’s perspective, this is an existential issue: If the Americans blink, that will be sensed very clearly, and it will tell North Korea that it can continue to go about its nuclear weapons business. The North Korean developments likely will lead to Syria gaining improved missile technology and Iran accelerating its nuclear program.

Another senior Israeli official angrily chastised the United States for its lack of action after it learned North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor.

“What did the Americans do with all that? Not much,” the official said. “The Syrian reactor ought to have taught them that North Korea had lied throughout the entire affair, but Washington nevertheless preferred to persevere with its critical dialogue.

“The result of that is that the missiles were fired, the tests continued. Yesterday was a resounding slap on the cheek, which ostensibly is supposed to indicate to all of us that the time has come for the administration either to sober up, or for us to despair of it.”

Barak: ‘Talk And Sanctions Don’t Stop Rogue Regimes’

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the United States and the international community to learn lessons from North Korea’s nuclear defiance.

“It is incumbent upon the United States and the international community to learn the lessons so as to convey a clear message to Iran,” Mr. Barak said. “Israel is concerned by the free world’s failure to stand up to North Korea.

“Talk, declarations and soft sanctions do not stop rogue regimes from endangering world peace. This test is a warning sign and a message to the world to wake up.”

Mr. Barak also expressed skepticism about the United States’ ability to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

“The chance of the dialogue between the United States and Iran producing an end to the Iranian effort to advance towards the attainment of a military nuclear capability is very low,” said Mr. Barak. “The Americans understand that the chance is very low, just that they think that there is a logic to this dialogue and yet, if that doesn’t happen, they are going to have to cope with the significance of that further on.”

The Defense minister says he believes the dialogue between the United States and Iran needs to be time limited, but the Obama administration has refrained from setting a firm timetable so far.

Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Israeli Knesset Parliament Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was more explicit, saying: “The North Koreans’ flaunted nuclear test was registered not only by the seismographs, but mainly by the Iranian regime of ayatollahs. If the United States surrenders unconditionally to the axis of evil, the entire world can expect to face difficult and demanding moments.”

View this story in the Philadelphia Bulletin
View this story at Israel Behind the News

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