Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh, what I wouldn't give to have a functioning and capable State Department

I don't presume to speak for anyone else, but I would rather have the Secretary of State dealing with issues like this instead of hurling schoolyard taunts at Moqtada al-Sadr.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress will be told this week about intelligence suggesting that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor similar to one it has constructed, a government official familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

The Senate and House intelligence committees were scheduled to be briefed on Thursday, and several other panels such as the Senate Armed Services Committee were expected to be briefed as well.

North Korea has been suspected of helping Syria with a secret nuclear program, but both countries deny it. Pyongyang says it has never spread its nuclear expertise beyond its borders.

Israeli warplanes bombed a site in Syria on Sept. 6 that private analysts say appears to have been the site of a reactor, based on commercial satellite imagery taken after the raid. The site later was razed and wiped clean.

Evidence will be presented to the Congress that North Korea has helped Syria construct a reactor modeled on their facility at Yongbyon, which has, in the past, yielded plutonium in sufficient quantity to create a nuclear weapon.

An official inside the Bush administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the intelligence community had been inundated with requests for information on North Korea and Syria since the Israeli airstrike against a suspected reactor on September 6 of last year. and that now seemed like the right time to brief the lawmakers. It is a tenuous proposition - talks are ongoing with the North Koreans and leaks could jeopardize their prospects.

At the same time, those who pay attention to the Middle East are concerned that timing the briefing for this week runs the risk of upstaging visits this week by Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and hurt the negotiations for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement with allegations of nefarious activity by an Arab nation with the aid of North Korea flying around, the official said.

Speculation has run wild in recent weeks, especially in the Israeli media, that the briefing of the Congress will include intel gathered by Israel and that the Israeli government has signed off on the information sharing. Another official, invoking anonymity, said that the impending briefing would present intelligence gathered by various sources and methods and synthesized into a coherent package after carefully being analyzed over a period of several months.

Under the agreement reached in the Six Party Talks last year, the North Koreans are obligated to give a full account of it's nuclear programs, including whether or not it has been a party to the proliferation of nuclear technology.

North Korea claims that it has complied with the declaration it presented last November, but the U.S. says that the North has not provided a "complete and correct" assessment.

The briefing is scheduled to take place one say before a U.S. delegation that went to North Korea to press for details of the North's nuclear programs is scheduled to report back.

The U.S. recently has stepped back from its push for a detailed declaration addressing the North's alleged secret uranium enrichment program and nuclear cooperation with Syria. Now, the U.S. says it wants the North to simply acknowledge the concerns and then set up a system to verify the country doesn't continue such activity in the future.

President Bush defended the plans over the weekend during a meeting with new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, saying North Korea had the burden of proof under the agreements.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials would tell the committees that North Korea was helping Syria build a plutonium-fueled reactor.

This is just one more issue that has been mismanaged and fumbled by this inept and ineffectual administration. Here is hoping the other parties to the talks can keep it together until January, when we can send competent representation to the table.

Update I - Pale Rider

Here's where it would be fairly obvious to state that a US State Department, run by the likes of Bill Richardson, would definitely be an improvement.

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