Western intelligence points to new Syrian nuclear plant: report

Al-Qusayr, SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Western intelligence indicates that the government of Syria is in the process of constructing a new secret nuclear plant aimed at producing nuclear weapons. In the early hours of September 7, 2007, an air attack believed to have been carried out by Israel destroyed a mysterious facility deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert. The site, named al-Kibar, located 20 miles from Deir el-Zor in eastern Syria, is widely thought to have been a nuclear reactor under construction by Damascus. The Syrian government has never commented or protested about the incident. But in late 2008, the Israeli government told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Syria was once again “actively involved in plutonium production” and that Damascus had renewed its nuclear collaboration with North Korea, which was actively supplying Syria “with nuclear materials and research”. Now a report in leading German newsmagazine Der Spiegel claims that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had transported 8,000 fuel rods that had been destined for al-Kibar to a new location in the southwest of the country. The report, published on Saturday, cited information from “Western intelligence sources”, which it did not identify. The newsmagazine said it had seen intelligence reports containing satellite photographs and transcriptions of intercepted radio traffic, which left little doubt that the Syrian government was in the process of constructing a new nuclear reactor. The German-language publication said the plant is being constructed deep underground in a remote mountainous region near the small town of Al-Qusayr, located less than two miles from the northern Lebanese border. According to the report, construction on the al-Qusayr plant, which the Syrians appear to have codenamed “Zamzam”, began in 2009 under the watchful eye of Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah, which currently guards the plant with “elite units”. The site appears ideal, said Der Spiegel, as it is adjacent to significant supplies of water, and is connected to the energy grid through special access nodes. The newsmagazine said radio traffic intercepts include conversations between senior Syrian military officials and Ibrahim Othman, head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission. The discussions seem to indicate that the construction project is being assisted by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The article points out that Western monitors are certain the technical aspects of the project are being led by North Korean experts, and that some of them are currently in Damascus. According to the IAEA, the Syrian government is in possession of approximately 50 tons of natural uranium, which, if enriched, could provide material for up to three nuclear bombs.

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Syria

Syria

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Did compromised laptop prompt Israel to bomb Syrian nuclear reactor?

Al-Kibar reactor

Al-Kibar reactor

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the Middle East’s biggest mysteries in recent years concerns Operation ORCHARD, the September 6, 2007, attack by Israeli fighter jets on a site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert. Many observers, including former CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, have called for the secrecy surrounding the covert operation to be finally lifted. But it has been more-or-less confirmed that the attack targeted a plutonium production reactor, which was part of Syria’s secret nuclear weapons program. And officials in Tel Aviv have repeatedly hinted that Israel was behind the operation. The burning question, however, is how did Israel learn of the existence of Syria’s nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar, a secret and isolated site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert? The authoritative account of the operation, which appeared in German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in 2009, suggested that the initial tip came from the US National Security Agency, which “detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea”. But it also alleged that the Mossad managed to acquire vital clues about the Al-Kibar building site by installing a stealth “Trojan horse” program on the laptop of a Syrian government official, while the latter was visiting Britain. Read more of this post

Israel intel chief hints at role in Syrian nuclear facility bombing

Amos Yadlin

Amos Yadlin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israel’s outgoing senior military intelligence chief has implied that Israel had a role in a mystery 2007 bombing of an undisclosed Syrian government facility, which is widely believed to have been a nuclear reactor. Speaking on Tuesday before the Knesset’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, Amos Yadlin, who heads Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, referred to having overseen intelligence operations against two nuclear programs during his tenure. Delivering a public statement before the Committee, Yadlin noted that he had “been through two wars and […] contended with two nuclear programs of enemy states”. Security observers consider this an indirect reference to Operation ORCHARD, the 2007 attack carried out by Israeli fighter jets in the night of September 6, 2007. The target location was Al-Kibar, a site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert, twenty miles from Deir al-Zour. Neither Syria nor Israel have directly commented on the attack, which is widely thought to have targeted a Syrian nuclear reactor. Read more of this post

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  • Secrecy over attack on Syrian nuclear plant unjustified, says ex-CIA chief. The secrecy surrounding the Israeli attack on the nuclear plant in eastern Syria in September 2007 was justified only for the period immediately after the operation, according to the CIA head at the time, Gen. Michael Hayden. That secrecy had been meant to save Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from embarrassment that could have provoked him to retaliate, argues Hayden in an authorized scholarly journal article.
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  • GCHQ releases Stalin-era Soviet intercepts. A series of newly released telegrams and telephone conversations, intercepted by the UK’s General Communications Headquarters, paint a picture of Joseph Stalin’s regime in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

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Details emerge on Israeli bombing of Syrian nuke reactor

Ibrahim Othman

Ibrahim Othman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has published a most detailed examination of the background to Operation ORCHARD, the 2007 Israeli air attack on what is thought to have been a Syrian nuclear reactor. The attack was carried out by Israeli fighter jets in the night of September 6, 2007, at Al-Kibar, a site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert, twenty miles from Deir al-Zour. Neither Syria nor Israel have commented on the attack, which is widely thought to have targeted Syria’s so-called Al-Kibar nuclear reactor. Der Spiegel’s article is based on interviews with nuclear and security experts, as well as “with individuals involved in the operation, [and] have only now agreed to [speak], under conditions of anonymity”, according to the authors. The article claims that the initial tip about Al-Kibar was given to the Israelis in 2004 by the US National Security Agency, which “detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea”. Read more of this post

Israeli intelligence alleges Syrian nuclear program resumed

In September 2007, Israel launched an air attack against Syria, destroying a facility in Al Kibar that both the Israelis and the Americans claimed was a nuclear military installation. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed the US and Israeli allegations. The Israelis now claim that the Syrians have resumed their nuclear program. Read more of this post