Sunday, October 14, 2007

Nuclear Syria?

In early September this year, Israel attacked and destroyed something in Syria. Of course Syria complained about the attack, but oddly, so did North Korea. Even more surprising was the lack of information from all, especially Israel. Normally Syria and Israel would be leaking information about this incident like a sieve. But after this Israeli Military Air Strike, a virtual black hole developed. Normally this would call for Banner Headline News and Government chest thumping from all sides. In this case after initial one line Government Statements, almost nothing.

It is therefore not surprising that speculation runs high that what little information and rumor about this raid is known, the information supports the idea that something very big happened. North Korea, silence from Israel and Syria, could indicate a Syrian Nuclear facility and aid from North Korea. North Koreans are thought to have been killed by this attack in Syria. It seems likely that the attack involved Nuclear Expansion.

Analysts Find Israel Struck a Nuclear Project Inside Syria from the online New York Times is the latest to make this link.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 — Israel’s air attack on Syria last month was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel, according to American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports.
In 1981, a similar Israeli attack set back the Iraq Nuclear Capability many years. But some, including American Analysts, believe the attack was premature. The Reagan Administration officially condemned the 1981 attack, while the Israeli government considered it one of their finest military victories.
Many details remain unclear, most notably how much progress the Syrians had made in construction before the Israelis struck, the role of any assistance provided by North Korea, and whether the Syrians could make a plausible case that the reactor was intended to produce electricity. In Washington and Israel, information about the raid has been wrapped in extraordinary secrecy and restricted to just a handful of officials, while the Israeli press has been prohibited from publishing information about the attack.
The Bush Administration has remained concerned about the effect of this attack. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have expressed this concern for the implications of a pre-emptive strike in the absence of an urgent threat.

The silence from the principals, and everybody else concerning this attack is very unusual.
In his only public comment on the raid, Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, acknowledged this month that Israeli jets dropped bombs on a building that he said was “related to the military” but which he insisted was “not used.”

A senior Israeli official, while declining to speak about the specific nature of the target, said the strike was intended to “re-establish the credibility of our deterrent power,” signaling that Israel meant to send a message to the Syrians that even the potential for a nuclear weapons program would not be permitted. But several American officials said the strike may also have been intended by Israel as a signal to Iran and its nuclear aspirations. Neither Iran nor any Arab government except for Syria has criticized the Israeli raid, suggesting that Israel is not the only country that would be disturbed by a nuclear Syria. North Korea did issue a protest.
The Bush Administration also refuses to discuss this matter.
The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said Saturday that the administration would have no comment on the intelligence issues surrounding the Israeli strike. Israel has also refused to comment.
There are 2 different paths to enriched nuclear material used nuclear weaponry.
Nuclear reactors can be used for both peaceful and non-peaceful purposes. A reactor’s spent fuel can be reprocessed to extract plutonium, one of two paths to building a nuclear weapon. The other path — enriching uranium in centrifuges — is the method that Iran is accused of pursuing with an intent to build a weapon of its own.

Syria is known to have only one nuclear reactor, a small one built for research purposes. But in the past decade, Syria has several times sought unsuccessfully to buy one, first from Argentina, then from Russia. On those occasions, Israel reacted strongly but did not threaten military action. Earlier this year, Mr. Assad spoke publicly in general terms about Syria’s desire to develop nuclear power, but his government did not announce a plan to build a new reactor.
Whatever was located at the attack site appears to have been discovered by Israeli satellite photography. It is believed Israel was the first to detect the possible nuclear activity, and then brought it to the attention of the Bush Administration. North Korean involvement is interesting, and very likely significant.
North Korea has long provided assistance to Syria on a ballistic missile program, but any assistance toward the construction of the reactor would have been the first clear evidence of ties between the two countries on a nuclear program. North Korea has successfully used its five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex to reprocess nuclear fuel into bomb-grade material, a model that some American and Israeli officials believe Syria may have been trying to replicate.

The North conducted a partly successful test of a nuclear device a year ago, prompting renewed fears that the desperately poor country might seek to sell its nuclear technology. President Bush issued a specific warning to the North on Oct. 9, 2006, just hours after the test, noting that it was “leading proliferator of missile technology, including transfers to Iran and Syria.” He went on to warn that “the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable.”
President Bush has not repeated his warnings about North Korea. This silence is likely because of the delicate balance and sensitive negotiations while the 6 party talks between North Korea, the US and 4 other nations, continue in an attempt to convince North Korea to end their Nuclear Weaponry ambitions.
While the partly constructed Syrian reactor appears to be based on North Korea’s design, the American and foreign officials would not say whether they believed the North Koreans sold or gave the plans to the Syrians, or whether the North’s own experts were there at the time of the attack. It is possible, some officials said, that the transfer of the technology occurred several years ago.

According to two senior administration officials, the subject was raised when the United States, North Korea and four other nations met in Beijing earlier this month.
Whatever happened on September 6th remains a mystery and therefore subject to speculation. But there is an excellent chance that the speculation about Syrian Nuclear Facilities and North Korean aid are correct.

One important detail is left out of the New York Times article, however. That is the fact that Syrian Air Defenses were unable to prevent Israeli Air Attacks. This is siginificant because the Syrian Air Defense System was an advanced Russian System similar to, but more advanced than the Russian System in Iran.

We continue to watch for further developments.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

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