Britain's Sunday Times reported last night that an elite Israeli commando unit--members of the legendary Sayeret Matkal--captured North Korean nuclear materials and killed several North Korean nationals at a secret Syrian installation before its destruction by the Israeli Air Force earlier this month. The paper quoted "informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem."
"Nuclear materials" could be an understatement. Analysts tell China Confidential Pyongyang may have provided Damascus with an actual nuclear bomb or warhead.
Alternatively, the plutonium bomb-producing, Stalinist/Kimist regime may have supplied Syria with enriched uranium from a suspected parallel nuclear program.
Either way, North Korea's nuclear tag-team partner, Iran, had to have been involved in the project at Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria, which was wiped out on Sept. 6. The two countries have cooperated in nuclear and missile development for years. More recently, North Korea has reportedly been helping Iran to accelerate production of a nuclear weapon; the cooperation may include preparations for an underground bomb test.
North Korea, as previously reported by China Confidential, may have also helped Iran to build and test a missile launching system that could be concealed and used aboard a civilian cargo ship. There is no known defense--except for a good offense--against this type of attack, known as a Scud-in-a-bucket. Given time to develop or acquire atomic warheads, Iran can be expected to arm and deploy sleeper ships at sea--a fleet of seemingly innocent, foreign flagged vessels--each of which could be capable of attacking US coastal cities with nuclear-tipped missiles.
China--ally of both Syria and Iran--had to have known what it's Korean vassal was up to in the Middle East.
But Beijing could also have tipped off the United States or Israel--who knows? The leaders of booming, energy-starved China may be dangerous; but they're not insane. The last thing they want to see in the Middle East is a nuclear exchange that could wipe out much of the world's oil supplies.