Whenever Israel’s Enemies Get Nuclear Technology, North Korea Has Usually Been Involved

Sept. 11 2019

In 2007 the Mossad obtained photographs of a Syrian nuclear reactor—later destroyed by the IDF—which analysts were able to identify in part because it was a near-perfect replica of a facility in Yongbyon, North Korea, that was used for manufacturing nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has likewise played an important role in Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. As Jay Solomon explains, the Stalinist country has a long history of helping those who would attack Israel, especially where technological sophistication is involved:

For North Korea, confronting Israel emerged in the 1960s as a central plank in its campaign to fight Western “imperialism” and U.S.-backed governments. North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, aggressively supported the Palestinian cause, funding and training Arab militants who targeted Israel in terrorist attacks in the 1970s. . . . In 1972 North Korea trained and financed operatives from the Japanese Red Army, a radical Marxist organization, who attacked Israel’s Lod Airport, killing 26 people and injuring 80 more.

In June 1973, [Anwar] Sadat formally invited North Korean military advisers to Egypt. According to Chinese press reports, Pyongyang sent nearly 1,500 personnel to help the Egyptians run their Soviet-made surface-to-air missile systems as war with Israel appeared imminent. [During the Yom Kippur War], Israeli jets shot down two North Korean-piloted MiG-21s in dogfights over the Sinai. North Korean pilots also flew with the Syrian air force.

In Syria, North Korea [later] rushed to help President Bashar al-Assad win the brutal civil war waged since 2011, [including through] the production of the chemical weapons Assad has used to gas thousands of Syrians.

No country in the Middle East, [however], has had deeper cooperation with Pyongyang in missile development than Iran. . . . Tehran’s nuclear program is by far the most advanced in the region, besides Israel’s, and the best positioned to benefit from North Korea’s technological advances. . . . One South Korean official said [his country’s intelligence services have] documented hundreds of North Koreans traveling to Tehran using a range of real and forged passports. . . . North Korea’s and Iran’s missile programs complement each other in a number of important ways. . . . Pyongyang has a better mastery of the electronics used in the navigation systems of the projectiles, while Tehran is seen as having a better grasp of the solid-fuel propellants used to ignite them.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Iran, Mossad, North Korea, Nuclear proliferation, Syria, Yom Kippur War

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war