Damascus Deception

Two years after their reactor was destroyed, the Syrians still haven’t come clean about their covert nuclear program and the world’s nuclear watchdog is powerless to make them.

Last Friday, Mohammed ElBaradei, director generalof the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), issued a fourth report on the agency’s investigation into Syria’s attempts to construct a covert nuclear program with the help of North Korea. The report shows that two years after their suspected reactor was destroyed, Damascus continues to stonewall the IAEA. It also illustrates the agency’s limitations in detecting and investigating clandestine activities. The reactor may no longer exist, but Syria’s past pursuits and North Korea’s dangerous role are still causes for concern — as is the IAEA’s inability to do anything about them.

Syria’s rogue nuclear program was shrouded in secrecy from the beginning. The reactor was constructed in a remote desert canyon, its resemblance to a North Korean reactor disguised with false walls and a false ceiling, and its cooling pipes buried underground. Syria did not notify the IAEA of the reactor’s construction, thereby violating its Safeguards Agreement, a standard agreement meant to allow the IAEA to verify the peaceful use of nuclear material.

After an Israeli airstrike in September 2007 destroyed the reactor, Syria went to great lengths to cover up its violation. President Bashar al-Assad denied that the destroyed facility housed a reactor, and North Korea refused to acknowledge its involvement. Incriminating components were hauled away, the facility remains were further destroyed, much of a surrounding hill was bulldozed over the site, and a new building was quickly erected on top.

Read entire story by Gregory L. Schulte on Foreign Policy

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