Axis of Confusion

So I apparently have geopolitics on the brain this weekend. There are two important geopolitical topics from this fall that I can't wrap my head around. 1. The North Koreans accepting to dismantle their nuclear infrastructure

2. The September Israeli strike on Syria


1. I am in "I'll believe it when I see it" mode about North Korea.

Their leadership, rightly, believes that their nuclear arsenal is what protects the regime and has sacrificed immensely to get there, including enduring years of sanctions and putting something like 10% of their minimal GDP into their nuclear program. I simply can't believe they have now decided to give it up.

Prediction: This deal falls apart, perhaps with the next administration, just like the Clinton deal did

2. Even more bizarre is the Israeli airstrike on Syria. The normal interpretation given Israel's history of airstrikes would suggest that this would not occur unless they were hitting a non-conventional/nuclear target.

So here is what I don't understand:

a) If Syria had started a nuclear program and the Israelis bombed it, shouldn't that be getting a ton more publicity? You would expect the US to be promoting Syria to Senior Member of the Axis of Evil at this point. Instead both the US and Israel have been dead quiet.

b) On the other hand, it is pretty clear that Israel did not bomb a childrens' toy factory.

While Syria said it was "absolutely, totally, fundamentally ridiculous and untrue. There are no nuclear North Korean-Syrian facilities whatsoever in Syria," it only made a perfunctory protest, has not show much evidence and, according to the NYTimes, "neither Iran nor any Arab government except for Syria has criticized the Israeli raid." The lack of Arab protests is both remarkable and an indication that this was probably nuclear.

c) Making this even more confusing, supposedly it was North Korea that was helping with the nuclear facility (and North Korea was the only country to protest the Israeli attack). So the North Koreas have simultaneously decided to shut down their nuclear operations and help Syria set up operations of its own. Hard to believe.


Net result, we are not getting the whole story here and clearly the mainstream press has been put on a muzzle and/or not being fed any information, otherwise the topic of "North Korea is helping Syria to building nuclear weapons" would have been covered in the media 10x a day.

Even usually reliable is confused.

They give a timeline of explanations but the best they came up with is that the US and Israel were caught by surprise and therefore did not have anything to say to the press. So, in other words, also has no clue what is going on.


US assesses that Iran stopped nuclear weapons work in 2003. Would not have weapon ready until 2013 at earliest. Obviously, this is a significant de-escalation from more recent rhetoric on Iran. I am working with the obvious assumption that publicly declared intelligence assessments have PR purposes.

Something is definitely afoot, perhaps as simple as wanting to reduce the pressure on the US take more aggressive measures on Iran, Syria, North Korea.

Other resources:

* An academic review from the Monterey Institute on the topic

* NY Times article

* and just for fun, an oldie from SatireWire. "Passed over, Syria, China, Libya form the Axis of Just-as-Evil"

Posted on December 2, 2007 and filed under Global Economy.