Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

Two Nonproliferation Press Notes: Syria Gets IAEA-OK for Nuclear Plant; S. Korea and Brazil Kick Off Nonproliferation Events

Posted by K.E. White on November 28, 2008

Interesting update from Syria, courtesy of the LATimes:

The International Atomic Energy Agency approved a contested Syrian bid for assistance in planning a nuclear power plant Wednesday after being assured that the effort would be closely monitored.     

The United States, Canada and Australia had led Western efforts to freeze the project while allegations of covert activity that could lead to nuclear weapons were investigated. But the U.S. and its allies finally joined a consensus in favor of the aid since they could not have won a vote, diplomats in the closed meeting said.

Syria’s request for the power plant aid, something rubber-stamped for many nations, degenerated into a political tug of war after an agency report suggested Damascus might have tried to build a nuclear reactor in secret…
And I want my tickets to Jeju Island and São Paulo, as any seriously aspiring non-proliferation should–at least this week.
From Brazzil Maganize’s coverage of two United Nations Conferences aiming to focus world-wide attention on WMD proliferation:

São Paulo, BrazilIn the Brazilian city of São Paulo, UN’s Office for Disarmament Affairs has organized a week-long workshop on implementing Security Council resolution 1540. That resolution, adopted by the Council in 2004, focuses on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The workshop aims to enhance national capacities for the management of export control processes at a practical level as well as to improve information and experience-sharing between national expert control and enforcement authorities.

Meanwhile the seventh annual Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-proliferation issues, organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and South Korea, is taking place on Jeju Island.

This year’s conference will focus on such concerns as revitalizing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) process, the nuclear renaissance, a multilateral assurance mechanism for nuclear fuel supply, and non-proliferation challenges in North-East Asia.

Jeju IslandSome 40 representatives of governments, international organizations, academic and research institutions, as well as civil society are expected to participate.

The annual event, which has been hosted by South Korea since 2002, is a forum for dialogue and the exchange of views on pressing security and disarmament-related issues facing the international community, addressing particular disarmament and non-proliferation concerns in the Asia-Pacific region.

Acknowledging that obstacles to nuclear disarmament are daunting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month that it is more imperative than ever to make it a reality given the twin economic and financial crises the world is currently facing.


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Posted in IAEA, Nonproliferation, Nuclear, proliferation, Syria, United Nations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

News Update: Syria’s Suspected Nuclear Site

Posted by K.E. White on November 1, 2007

Summary: Fox News talks with David Albright on his satellite analysis of Syria’s suspect nuclear site. And Oxford Analytica speculates on motives for Israel to overreact towards Syria’s mysterious site. And the IAEA investigation won’t make clearing anything up soon. 

Fox News talks with Albright, who suggests Israel’s attack was a rush-job:
 

“The Israelis stumbled upon this, were surprised and acted quickly,” Albright said. “And so we don’t know what evidence they collected or (if) they just panicked and decided to act without knowing and worried about the worse case.” 

Analysis of those previous images, taken by DigitalGlobe, found that the structure could be a nuclear facility at least several years from completion similar to one in North Korea, according to an ISIS report released last week.

Oxford Analytica lists reasons for an Israel overreaction, and suggests this nuclear mystery won’t clear up anytime soon:

The publicly available information could have other reasons for wanting to suggest the site was nuclear:

–Israel is anxious to rebuild an appearance of strength after its perceived setback at the hands of Hizbollah in Lebanon last year.

–Israel may also have been interested in taking action that might cause Iranian leaders to reconsider their own nuclear ambitions.

–Attacking an alleged nuclear facility in Syria–a much easier target than Iran–might serve both purposes.

If the site was a nuclear reactor under construction, it has serious implications for security in the region and on the global stage.

And such uncertainty appears to be crippling the IAEA investigation into the site. From Reuters:

A U.N. watchdog inquiry into a suspected Syrian covert nuclear site bombed by Israel may end inconclusively without more information than satellite pictures that are already available, a diplomat said on Wednesday.

The IAEA has been studying before-and-after commercial aerial photos of the site and has asked Syria for explanations. But Syria has not replied and the pictures alone are unlikely to yield conclusions, the diplomat told Reuters.

“IAEA experts are looking back at the evolution of this facility. But with these pictures alone they feel they may be unable to draw conclusions,” the diplomat, familiar with IAEA affairs but not authorised to speak on the record, told Reuters.

Oxford Analytica points out that Syria is a fully compliment member of both the NPT and IAEA member of the NPT. And guess what? “[The suspected nuclear site] was still several years away from completion and was not required to be declared to the IAEA at its early stage of construction.”

Posted in IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, Israel, Nuclear, Syria | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

More Evidence of Syria’s Nuclear Project

Posted by K.E. White on October 25, 2007

So Syria was building a nuclear site, but perhaps that’s the least of our worries?

From the Associated Press:

Commercial satellite images show construction in Syria that resembles
the early stages of a small North Korean-model nuclear reactor, a
report said Wednesday, speculating that it was the site hit last
month by an Israeli airstrike.

The photos, taken nearly a month before the Sept. 6 strike, show a
tall box-like building near the Euphrates River that the report said
was similar in shape to a North Korean five-megawatt reactor building
in Yongbyon.
David Albright

 It cautioned that the Syrian building was “not far enough along in
its construction to make a definitive comparison.” The photo also
shows a smaller building that the report says appears to be a pump
station, which would be needed to provide water to cool a reactor.

The report was written by David Albright [and Paul Brannan], a former U.N. nuclear inspector and now head of the Washington-based Institute for Science
and International Security, and researcher Paul Brannan.

Albright and Brannan’s full report can be read here.

The report concludes:

The images raise as many questions as they answer. How far along was the reactor construction project when it was bombed? What was the extent of nuclear assistance from North Korea? Which reactor components did Syria obtain from North Korea or elsewhere, and where are they now? Is Syria able to produce any of the key reactor components itself? Could Syria have finished the reactor without on-going North Korean assistance? Did Syria plan to build a plutonium separation plant?

Posted in David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security, ISIS, Nuclear, nuclear site, Syria | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Syria’s Nuclear Update: Syria Denies and Destroys; IAEA Left in the Cold?

Posted by K.E. White on October 19, 2007

So Syria is trying to quell allegations that Israel bombed a nuclear facility within its territory. And all this confusion raises a serious question: Can the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) to effectively lead on nonproliferation efforts?

The equation of the Syrian nuclear press-blitz:

Denial + Destroy = Trust?

JTA Break News reports on Syrian plans to destroy the site, before it can be investigated by impartial parties:

Syria reportedly is clearing the remains of the alleged nuclear facility that Israel attacked last month.

Dismantling the site will make it difficult for International Atomic Energy Agency officials to learn what the facility was used for, the Washington Post reported Friday.

This will make it tough for IAEA inspectors, who noted with concern that IAEA-member Syria had not disclosed the site, in a tough spot.

But don’t worry: the United States has cleared up any confusion, via satellite photographs:

U.N. experts have received satellite imagery of the site struck last month by Israeli warplanes and are analyzing it for signs that it might have been a secret nuclear facility, diplomats said Friday.

One of the diplomats indicated that the photos came from U.S intelligence. Two others said the images, which have been studied by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency since being received on Thursday, do not at first examination appear to substantiate reports that the target was a nuclear installation, but emphasized that the images were still under examination.

The diplomats, who were briefed on the agency’s receipt of the images, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential. Officials of the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog had no comment.

The Syrian episode seems to reveal some stark limitations on the IAEA. If member nations cannot be trusted to either disclose nuclear activities or conclusively disprove other nations’ nuclear allegations, how can the IAEA effectively curb proliferation?

Posted in IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, Israel, Israeli strike, Nuclear, Syria | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Monday Afternoon Tea: TNR on the Israeli Strike, and Norman Podhoretz’s Worldview Courtesy of Politico

Posted by K.E. White on September 24, 2007

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud OlmertSummary: The New Republic’s Dennis Dennis Ross gives an excellent explanation of what brought about and what effect was wrought from Israel’s Syrian strike. Meanwhile, Politico’s David Paul Kuhn brings focus to Neo-con patriarch Norman Podhoretz.Syrian leader Bashar al Assad

Ross argues that Israel’s Syrian strike reinforces Israel’s deterrent capability and is a response to Syria’s arms build-up (and–of course–a possible message to Iran). Ross endorses Israel’s move, considering it a stroke of hard-power precision—getting the desired results, without fanning a great conflict.

Ross delves into Israel’s penchant for secrecy, but misses the critical issue: What will be Syria’s next move? Is Syria as isolated as we think? And could Arab silence on Israel’s strike be another blow their fragile legitimacy at home?

Meanwhile, Kuhn reveals two aspects of meeting Norman Podhoretz held with George W. Bush and Karl Rove: 1) that he urged them to strike Iran and 2) they seemed to admit that negotiations with Iran were pointless.

Norman PodhoretzKuhn also fleshes out Podhoretz’s Middle East position: that the war in Iraq is necessary for American security, and is part of a greater conflict between Western liberalism and Islamofascism (a Podhoretzian turn of phrase).

Segment of interest: Podhoretz stands by his prediction that the Bush administration will strike Iran. Is this all part of a well constructed bluff on the part of the administration to alter Iranian calculus? Could Bush be simply building the best bargaining position possible for the next President?

Check out this Campus Progress biography for more on Podhoretz’s monumental contribution to the neoconservative movement–from an opposing viewpoint.

Posted in Bashar al Assad, Ehud Olmert, Iran, Israel, New Republic, Norman Podhoretz, Politico, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Cat’s Out of the Bag: Sources Confirm Israel’s Syrian Air Raid Sought Out Suspected Nuclear Site

Posted by K.E. White on September 21, 2007

Condensed form: The Israel air-force struck a suspected Syrian nuclear site thought to be constructed with North Korean aid earlier this month.

Thought of the day: Times have changed at the White House. Regime change in North Korea has morphed to quiet, but firm diplomacy in regards to North Korea. (Read Bush’s muted response to questions yesterday.) But does it signify a change of heart or merely differing priorities, with the White House squarely focused on Iran?

From WaPo:

Israel’s decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the underlying intelligence. Although the administration was deeply troubled by Israel’s assertion that North Korea was assisting the nuclear ambitions of a country closely linked with Iran, sources said, the White House opted against an immediate response because of concerns it would undermine long-running negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence before Israel proceeded with the raid, which hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties, the sources said.

The target of Israel’s attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. A Middle East expert who interviewed one of the pilots involved said they operated under such strict operational security that the airmen flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know the details of the mission. The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air, he said. Syrian authorities said there were no casualties.

Posted in air strike, Bush, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Nuclear, September 6, Syria, White House | Leave a Comment »

Bush on Israel’s Syrian Strike: “I’m not going to comment on the matter.”

Posted by K.E. White on September 20, 2007

Just watched this enlightening response from President George W. Bush to NBC’s David Gregory.

Should the public know what was behind Israel’s air-strike on Syria? And when should they know it?

Update

Bush on North Korea-Syria link: “We expect them not to be proliferating.”

More from the response:

 

“We have made it clear and we will continue to make it clear to the North Koreans through the six party talks that we expect them to honor their commitment to give up weapons and weapons programs. And to the extent that they are proliferating, we expect them to stop proliferating.”

“It matters whether they are, but the concept of proliferation is equally as important as getting rid of programs and weapons.”

“We expect them not to be proliferating.”

 

Posted in Bush, Israel, North Korea, strike, Syria, White House | Leave a Comment »

What Was Behind Israel’s Strike on Syria?

Posted by K.E. White on September 19, 2007

Putting aside conspiracy theories and Bolton’s North Korea twist aside, the Christian Science Monitor explores possible reasons behind the air-strike

The article in condensed form: 

1)      Israel reaffirming its deterrence capability—one that took a big hit in last summer’s Lebanon operation

2)      Warning signal to Iran: a military strike on Syria provoked muted international reaction. Would international reaction to an Iranian air strike be the same?

3)      Off that rift, proof of the durability of relations between Israel and Turkey, and other moderate Muslim nations in the Middle East

4)      The forerunner to a European-US air-strike on Iran, which can be inferred from the El Baradei-Western split over Iranian diplomacy

 Read this for more information on Israel’s air-strike capabilities

Posted in Christian Science Monitor, IAEA, Iran, Israel, Syria | 1 Comment »

North Korea-Syria Connection: All Neo-Con Hype?

Posted by K.E. White on September 18, 2007

Recent reports have suggested Syria may have received nuclear technology from North Korea. Such a development 1) has been a blow to administration dealings with North Korea and 2) a worrisome sign that Syria might come under quite literal fire.

The source for these concerns lays chiefly with John Bolton. From the World Tribune:

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Syria has long sought nuclear and other WMD capabilities. Bolton said Syria might have agreed to provide uranium enrichment facilities to Iran and North Korea, both of whom have been under international pressure to end their nuclear weapons programs. On Monday, North Korea delayed talks scheduled for Sept. 19 for an end to the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

“Syria is very aggressive in pursuing WMD capability,” Bolton told the Israeli daily, Jerusalem Post. “It’s a diversion game — to carry on even when you are supposed to have halted, as in the case of North Korea. And I’d be surprised if Syria would do anything with North Korea without Iranian acquiescence.”

But there’s another spin of this story. From BBC News:

Joseph Cirincione, director for nuclear policy at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, has gone so far as to describe the story as “nonsense”.

Selective leaks are being used to play up the Syria-North Korea connection, he writes on the online site of the journal Foreign Policy.

“This appears to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted ‘intelligence’ to key reporters in order to promote a pre-existing political agenda. If this sounds like the run-up to the war with Iraq, then it should,” he writes.

Neocon hype to derail positive developments with North Korea? Or proof that negotiation with North Korea–and by extension Iran–is pointless?

Posted in Diplomacy, John Bolton, Joseph Cirincione, North Korea, Nuclear, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Did Israel Punt Peace With Syria Last Summer?

Posted by K.E. White on January 16, 2007

Last summer many of us watched the footage of the most recent military altercation between Lebanon and Israel.

Many have come to see Israel’s decision to escalate the conflict a strategic blunder. Some, considering the fight as a United States-Iran proxy, viewed the episode as another American failure in the Middle East.

Today’s Guardian offers another wrinkle to last summer’s dangerous diplomatic dance: reporting that Israel punted off unofficial peace talks with Syria:

Ha’aretz said the secret meetings were held in Europe and began in September 2004, initiated by the Syrians. The talks involved Alon Liel, a former director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, Geoffrey Aronson, from the Foundation for Middle East Peace, in Washington, and Ibrahim Suleiman, a Syrian businessman living in Washington who is from the same Alawite sect as the Syrian president, Bashar Assad. The group met at least seven times in a European capital, together with a European mediator and sometimes two other Israelis, the paper said…

Ha’aretz quoted the mediator as saying Syria was intent on reaching peace with Israel. “Farouk Shara told me radical Islam constitutes a threat to Syria and that peace is the only way to halt it,” the paper quoted him as saying.

A document was drawn up among the group, dated August 2005, and which covered security, water, borders and normalisation of ties. It said a demilitarised zone would be established on the Golan Heights, along with an early warning ground station on Mount Hermon to be operated by the US. Both sides would then have military zones on their side of the border. Syria would work towards a peaceful solution to problems with Palestinians and in Lebanon and Iran.

However the contacts ended last July, just after the start of the war between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Ha’aretz said the Syrians had asked for secret official meetings between the two sides and that Israel had refused. It appears the negotiations ended there.

Israel today denied knowledge of the meetings. “This is the first we have heard of the talks. We have never sanctioned anybody to speak to the Syrians and the prime minister first learned of these conversations through the newspaper report this morning,” said an Israeli spokeswoman, Miri Eisin. In Damascus a Syrian foreign ministry official described the newspaper report as “completely false.”

Posted in Diplomacy, Israel, Lebanon, Security Studies, Syria | Leave a Comment »