Across the Bay

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Iran Financed Syria's Nuclear Project

From a report in the Swiss Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung (English precis via AP):

A top-ranked Iranian defector told the United States that Iran was financing North Korean moves to make Syria into a nuclear weapons power, leading to the Israeli air strike that destroyed a secret reactor, a report said Thursday.
...
"The biggest surprise, however, was his assertion that Iran was financing a secret nuclear project of Syria and North Korea," he said. "No one in the American intelligence scene had heard anything of it. And the Israelis who were immediately informed also were completely unaware."
...
US Intelligence had detected North Korean ship deliveries of construction supplies to Syria that started in 2002, and American satellites spotted the construction as early as 2003, but regarded the work as nothing unusual, in part because the Syrians had banned radio and telephones from the site and handled communications solely by messengers - "medieval but effective," Ruehle said.

Intensive investigation followed by US and Israeli intelligence services until Israel sent a 12-man commando unit in two helicopters to the site in August 2007 to take photographs and soil samples, he said. "The analysis was conclusive that it was a North Korean-type reactor," a gas graphite model, Ruehle said.

Other sources have suggested that the reactor might have been large enough to make about one nuclear weapon's worth of plutonium a year.

Just before the Israeli commando raid, a North Korean ship was intercepted en route to Syria with nuclear fuel rods, underscoring the need for fast action, he said. "On the morning of Sept. 6, 2007, seven Israeli F-15 fighter bombers took off to the north. They flew along the Mediterranean coast, brushed past Turkey and pressed on into Syria. Fifty kilometers (30 miles) from their target they fired 22 rockets at the three identified objects inside the Kibar complex.

Once I read the article in the original, I'll come back and add any interesting details missing from the newswire stories.