Saturday, October 27, 2007

Syrian "Nukes"? Not so fast.

This is from this site. I really don't think that one can be sure of any of these stories. There was an attack but what it was on we really haven't much of a clue.
We have all sorts of stories. Many of the stories are designed to advance an agenda on the part of the US and Israel. None of the stories will point out that the attack was a clear violation of international law. Can you imagine if Syria carried out such an attack on Israeli nuclear facilities!

Syrian "Nukes"? Not So Fast...
By Noah Shachtman October 26, 2007 | 10:29:19
So what did the Israelis really blow up in the Syrian desert last month? The conventional wisdom says it was a partially-built nuclear reactor, maybe constructed with North Korean help. Arms Control Wonk Jeffrey Lewis isn't so sure.

The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti and Bill Broad have two very good stories on the suspect site in Syria — one placing the leaks about the site in context of Administration internal debates over North Korea; the other reporting on new satellite imagery showing that North Korea has wiped clean the site.

I am sitting in an airport, but I thought a few points bear mentioning:

Syria has long expressed a desire to have a nuclear reactor; North Korea would probably sell a reactor if the price was right. On face, the story is not implausible.
The pictures showed a large building near a river. That’s about it. If the building was a reactor, it was very far from completion. Absent reliable human intelligence, I see nothing that conclusively demonstrates the building was a reactor although IAEA inspections would have been decisive on this point.



Assuming it was a reactor, it is much too early to make design determinations based on imagery. Overhead identifications of reactors can, and are, often wrong as they were in the cases of Baotou — a fuel fabrication facility in China mistaken for a plutonium production reactor — and the gigantic North Korean whole in the ground that is Kumchang-ri. Intelligence Community estimates of the size and type of the Yongbyon reactor, at a comparable stage, were incorrect.
The people leaking are those dissatisfied with US policy. “A sharp debate is under way in the Bush administration,” Mazetti and Helene Cooper reported, about “whether intelligence that Israel presented months ago to the White House … was conclusive enough to justify military action by Israel and a possible rethinking of American policy toward the two nations.” Obviously, that rethinking hasn’t happened yet. The people who lost that debate are leaking national security information, appealing to the press. That is precisely why Hoekstra (R-MI) and Ros-Lehtinen called for more information — this is about North Korea, not Syria.
We haven’t heard from the people who, as Mazetti and Cooper reported, were “cautious about fully endorsing Israeli warnings” or “remain unconvinced that a nascent Syrian nuclear program could pose an immediate threat.” They might have important information to add, were they willing to leak it.
Syria has wiped the site clean — a move that The Institute for Science and International Security's David Albright and Paul Brannan note “dramatically complicates any inspection of the facilities.” What ever Damascus may have been doing, we’re much less likely to know, now. One of the best reasons for pressing for inspections at the site, rather than bombing it, is to get answers to the questions about what the site was and how it got there. After Israeli bombed Osirak in 1981, Iraq simply continued its nuclear weapons program in secret. It was not the bombing of Osirak, but rather UN inspections, which eventually disarmed Saddam Hussein.
In short, we don’t know what the site was, what (or who) survived the strike, and where it is now.

-- Jeffrey Lewis, cross-posted at ArmsControlWonk.com

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