New articles of interest about Syria’s nukes

I strongly recommend reading these articles, especially the first one.    This story remains a mystery to me, and the US government’s assertions do not make sense (imo). 

Contents

I.  “More on Syrian Reactor Bombing“, posted at Informed Comment (27 April 2008) — The author is anonymous, but the reasoning appears valid.

II.  “Syrian Nukes: the Phantom Menace“, John W. Farley, Counterpunch (25 April 2008) — “The Media Falls for Fake News Once Again.” 

III.  “Syria president denies building nuclear reactor“, AFP (27 April 2008) — Some of their objections appear valid. 

IV.  “The Syrian Reactor and the Senate hearing“, posted at FutureJacked (24 April 2008) — Provides photos and some analysis.

Update:  IV.  “CIA Tells Us Something We Already Knew“, Josua Foust, posted at A Second Hand Conjecture (23 April 2008) — “Anyone who is shocked North Korea was actively selling dangerous weapons has never seriously studied the country.”

Excerpts from these articles

I.  More on Syrian Reactor Bombing“, posted at Informed Comment (27 April 2008) — The author is anonymous, but the reasoning appears valid.  Excerpt:

The alleged reactor is described, because of its dimensions and shape, as a duplicate of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon. The reactor at Yongbyon is a rough copy of an old British design. It is graphite-moderated and cooled with gaseous carbon dioxide. Its core is composed of a large number of highly-purified graphite blocks. For example, each of the first two Magnox reactors at Windscale in the UK used 2,000 tons of graphite. Even if this purported Syrian reactor vessel were half the size of one of the original UK reactors, it would require roughly 1,000 tons of graphite. That’s 14,400 cubic feet of highly-purified graphite. Would all official entities fail to notice the production and transfer of that amount of highly-refined graphite to Syria?

The voice-over on the CIA videotape asserts that the reactor in Syria was “nearly completed.” If the plant were “nearly completed,” those graphite blocks would have been substantially in place. Bombing and fire would have spread bits of carbon all over the site, or scattered whole blocks of graphite around the site. The “after” photos didn’t seem to indicate that this happened.

 … So far, the government’s primary evidence seems to be a photo of a North Korean who is reputed to be NK nuclear scientist Chon Chibu, standing next to someone “believed to be his Syrian counterpart” (quote from the London Times). That photo, as well as others, likely was provided by the Mossad, so its provenance is in question. Given that the Israelis bombed the site, one can’t evade the reality that they’re an interested party in the matter.

What is shocking in this assertion is the lack of physical evidence available for independent inspection, and the apparent complete failure of U.S. authorities to seek international inspection via the IAEA before the Israelis bombed the site in question, despite the fact that the U.S. was apparently aware of Israeli intentions well ahead of time. Syria has been a ratified signatory of the NPT since 1969, making it obligated to accept inspections. If, as the CIA asserts, the Syrian facility has been under construction since 2001, there was more than ample time to inform the IAEA of a signatory’s possible failure to abide by the treaty. Repeated unannounced overflights of Syrian territory by Israeli jets in recent years indicates long-term planning of this mission.

II.  Syrian Nukes: the Phantom Menace“, John W. Farley, Counterpunch (25 April 2008) — “The Media Falls for Fake News Once Again.”  Excerpt:

Last fall, journalist Laura Rozen spoke with Joseph Cirincione, director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress. Cirincione says

“In attacking Dair el Zor in Syria on Sept. 6, the Israeli air force wasn’t targeting a nuclear site but rather one of the main arms depots in the country. Dair el Zor houses a huge underground base where the Syrian army stores the long and medium-range missiles it mostly buys from Iran and North Korea. The attack by the Israeli air force coincided with the arrival of a stock of parts for Syria’s 200 Scud B and 60 Scud C weapons.”

Cirincione says that there is a small Syrian nuclear research program, which has been around for 40 years and is going nowhere. “It is a basic research program built around a tiny 30 kilowatt reactor that produced a few isotopes and neutrons. It is nowhere near a program for nuclear weapons or nuclear fuel,” he said. Over a dozen countries have helped Syria develop its nuclear program, including Belgium, Germany, Russia, China and even the United States, by way of training of scientists, he said.

III.  “Syria president denies building nuclear reactor“, AFP (27 April 2008) — Some of their objections appear valid.  Excerpt:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied in remarks published on Sunday that a site raided by Israel last year was a nuclear reactor under construction as charged by the United States.

Last September’s Israeli air strike “hit a military site under construction, not a nuclear site as Israel and America claimed,” Assad told the Qatari daily Al-Watan in an interview.  “Does it make sense that we would build a nuclear facility in the desert and not protect it with anti-aircraft defences?” he asked.  “A nuclear site exposed to (spy) satellites, in the heart of Syria and in an open space?

“We don’t want a nuclear bomb even if Iran acquires one,” added Assad, whose country is a close ally of Tehran, itself embroiled in a standoff with Washington over its nuclear activities.  “Where would we use it?… War in the region will effectively remain conventional,” he said.

IV.  “The Syrian Reactor and the Senate hearing“, posted at FutureJacked (24 April 2008) — Provides photos and some analysis.  Excerpt:

There are only two real implications from the data above:

  1. The Syrian governing elites are retarded. Seriously. How could they think they could get away with building such a facility? How?
  2. Or, the Israelis are playing a very risky game and spreading disinformation in an effort to secure U.S. support when they attack Hezbollah and Syria in the coming months. This also has holes in it.

While I am not Israel’s biggest fan (I still remember the U.S.S. Liberty and think Jonathan Pollard should have been taken out and shot at the gate of the Israeli embassy, his body left to rot in the sun for a week) I would not think they would play such a game, especially since all Syria would have to do is open up the site to the IAEA as soon as the bombing ended.

The Syrians did NOT open up the site after the bombing ended.

The above pictures are consistent with a reactor under construction. As unbelievable as it may sound, I have to say that I have been swayed and believe the idiots were really trying to build a reactor.

I can’t tell you why – they sure as hell weren’t going to be making a bomb any time soon.

IV.  CIA Tells Us Something We Already Knew“, Josua Foust, posted at A Second Hand Conjecture (23 April 2008) — “Anyone who is shocked North Korea was actively selling dangerous weapons has never seriously studied the country.”  Excerpt:

The CIA is set to publicly confirm ties between North Korea and Syria over the development of nuclear technologies, definitely including power generation and probably including weapons production. This, however, is something that has been spread across the news wires since at least 2004.

… Which of course raises the question: why does it even matter now? This is old information, in the public arena for years.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling). 

5 thoughts on “New articles of interest about Syria’s nukes

  1. {Story} IV is unrealistic. The Syrians are not being irrational.

    The Syrians know that whether or not they try to build nukes, Israel will convince the USA that they have nukes, and one way or another, Syria will get bombed, whether by Israel or by the USA.

    The Syrian elites aren’t retarded. The English-speaking world is simply set up so that they are effectively incommunicado, and Israel will tell the world what to think about them.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not believe getting nukes is irrational for any State with substantial enemies. It is the ultimate security. As technology makes building nukes easier, more states will build or buy nukes.
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    As with so many of our foreign policy goals, we have positioned ourselves against the future, fighting the tide of events. It is inevitably a losing battle, no matter how powerful our military and how many dollars China is willing to lend us.

  2. One other: “Just How Big Was Al Kibar Again?”, posted at Arms Controll Wonk (27 April 2008).

    Dr Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk did the unthinkable: COUNT the number of control rod openings. His estimates are that it could easily be just 1/5th of Yongbyon, and, even at full production, would probably only be able to produce 1 kg of plutonium a year.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Excellent, thanks for the link! Also note this excerpt, which goes the the heart of the question:

    “That’s still not good, but it also invites comparison’s to the fuss over Algeria’s reactor, which was resolved with safeguards not airstrikes.”

  3. The “retarded” comment about the Syrians, while unprofessional, stems from a number of factors, which include – why was the IAEA not notified? As Dr. Lewis points out in “Just How Big Was Al Kibar“, this reactor (again, assuming all images are valid and the intel is not false) was going to be a much smaller version of Yongbyon. Why not declare the reactor, put it under safeguards and move forward? Syria borders Israel – a country with a know history of bombing potential nuclear sites (Osirak). The massive technical hurdles in getting a reactor up could have been easily overcome had Syria been open about its intention. Now, assuming they wanted to build a bomb, that does qualify as stupid. Syria is riddled with Mossad-turned nationals. How could they hope to keep such a project secret? This is the same country that was betrayed by a high-ranking government official during the 6 Day War. There is a history of Mossad penetration into their governing structure.
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    I agree that it is not irrational for Syria to want a bomb. If I were Assad, I’d want one too. It is irrational for them to think they could build a nuclear reactor, operate it, extract plutonium, then fashion that material into a warhead. The technical hurdles are vast. The infrastructure required is immense and the risks to being found and attacked were huge – as they found out.
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    This is not, for once, an issue of Israeli domination of the mediastream in the West. This is about the cold calculus of whether or not to take on a risky nuclear project with WMD implications and try to do it in secret. That the Syrians thought they could accomplish such a task is breathtaking in its confidence. And if this was just an arms depot (which I had assumed it was from the day of the bombing until last week), then all Syria had to do was to open the site to IAEA inspectors and Israel would have been shown to be an aggressor without the shield of the nuclear bogeyman to cover their actions, which they now have.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Considering 20th century history and the 21st century Bush doctrine (which McCain says he will push ever harder), I consider it rational for every nation to get nukes. They are the only guarantee of security for small states against larger ones.

  4. “assuming all images are valid and the intel is not false … There is a history of Mossad penetration into their governing structure. … This is not, for once, an issue of Israeli domination of the mediastream in the West. ”

    1) Conversely, assuming the images are anything but perfectly honest and un-spun, this *is* an issue of Israeli media domination.
    2) IAEA inspectors don’t have a cutoff switch that stops US bombs. Neither did Scott Ritter, when he told the UN that Iraq had no WMD.
    3) If Mossad runs some part of Syria’s government, that opens the question of what role Mossad moles in Syria’s decisions for all of this.
    4) Israel will always have as many bogeymen as it fabricates. Everyone who is willing to admit that Israel is an aggressor has done so already.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Stratfor suggests that the US government disclosures were done against Israel, to is to derail any Israeli-Syrian peace process. “If this read is true, then it would appear that the United States briefed deliberately against Israeli wishes. Certainly, the Israelis didn’t participate in the process. One answer could be that the United States is unhappy about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s moves on Syria and wants to derail them.”
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    I have no idea what is going on here.

  5. Wasn’t there some comment from Assad that he’s willing to open direct negotiations with Israel, but only AFTER Bush leaves office?

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