(Vancouver, BC) -- "How close were we to seeing an armed nuclear conflict?" That is the question being asked as Syrian nationals temporarily vacated Beirut, Lebanon and the Jordan Valley during mid July according to sources close to ACG-CIS. Many security and intelligence officials believe that this behavior may have been related to the US sinking of a North Korean ship approximately 100 nautical miles from the coast of Iran.
It was not immediately clear why, around July 10, 2007, the Syrian nationals, primarily engaged in construction, trades and agricultural occupations, should have vacated Lebanon without notice. The nationals were noticed to have returned to Beirut and the Jordan Valley by July 21, 2007.
ACG-CIS is of the opinion that the approximate 10-day absence may have been in part due to a warning system alerting the nationals to the possibility of an impending military or terror strike against Israel and other western interests in the region.
According a number of news sources, officials and clerics from Syria and Iran met during this time period reportedly to draw plans and scenarios for proposed attacks and increased activity against western interests in both the Mid East region and elsewhere. Those talks ended last week with no official announcements from any of the participants.
ACG-CIS, based upon further analysis, believe that the nationals were warned of an apparent military style strike or strikes as Hezbollah was reported to be moving missiles in civilian populated areas throughout southern Lebanon. This movement along with the involvement of the Iranian president, an adamant believer in nuclear technology and development, lead to concerns about the possibility of a military style "dirty bomb" nuclear attack or a ballistic missile attack involving nuclear weapons purchased from North Korea.
It was reported earlier this month that while the North Korean 2006 test demonstrated the viability and reliability of North Korea's Scud- and Nodong-class systems, it left open the status of the three ballistic missile systems that the Korean People's Army (KPA) recently placed, or is placing, into service as testing on North Korea short-range missile systems has been quietly ongoing.
In classified reports American naval and air forces intercepted two North Korean vessels clandestinely en route for Iran with cargoes of enriched uranium and nuclear equipment in the past month. The shutdown of Pongyong's nuclear facilities has made these items surplus to North Korea's requirements and the Islamic Republic was more than willing to pay a hefty price for the goods.
On July 12, the second intercepted North Korean freighter was sunk in the Arabian Sea by torpedoes fired from a US submarine 100 miles southeast of the Iranian naval base-port of Chah Bahar. Delivery of its freight of enriched weapons-grade uranium and equipment and engines for manufacturing more fissile material including plutonium in its hold could have jump-forwarded Iran's nuclear bomb and warhead project, lopping off at least a year of work. For this Iran's rulers were ready to reportedly pay out a cool $500 million.
A few hours earlier, President Bush received an intelligence briefing on the vessel, its freight and destination. Apparently the shipment was brought forward by several weeks to evade detection by UN nuclear inspectors scheduled to visit Pyongyang this week to verify the dismantling of its nuclear facilities.
US airplanes had been tracking the freighter and picked up signs of radioactivity, indicating the presence of nuclear materials aboard.
President Bush had the option of ordering US Marines to board the vessel or to sink it. He decided on the latter - both because the North Korean freighter was approaching an area patrolled by Iranian naval units and seizure of the vessel by American marines might have provoked a clash; secondly, it was the better choice in order to avoid exposing US troops to radioactive contamination. American naval and air units in the Persian Gulf, Middle East and seas opposite North Korea were ordered to go on a high state of readiness and the torpedo the North Korean vessel was accomplished without delay.
After the attack, US warships raced to the spot where the ship went down where they picked up three lifeboats. Most of the North Korean sailors aboard were either injured or dead. Twenty in all died in the attack. They all bore symptoms of contamination. After the episode, the area was cordoned off and underwater equipment dropped to salvage the cargo from the sunken ship.
All the parties to the incident, the United States, North Korea and Iran, have kept the incident under wraps as the situation in and around the Gulf is inflammable enough to explode into a full-blown Iranian-US clash at the slightest provocation.