US Presses Syria on Suspected Nuclear Facility

The US representative to the IAEA has called on Syria to allow inspectors further access to the remains of its destroyed facility at al-Kibar. The facility was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2007 due to suspicions that it housed the beginnings of a covert nuclear reactor, a suspicion shared by the US. Although not the first time Israel had attacked suspected nuclear facilities, the al-Kibar strike was unique in the lack of international condemnation following it: the US, Israel, and Syria all held a total news blackout following the attack and it took a year before the IAEA was allowed access to the area to investigate the nature of the site. Within that time the remaining structure had been almost completely dismantled, leaving the inspectors with little to inspect.

The IAEA did, however, find small traces of uranium in the surrounding area, but were unable to ascertain its origin. Syria has since rejected any calls for follow-up inspections from the IAEA, asserting that it can answer any questions relating to the site. Two years on, the US is hoping that the IAEA will be allowed back to al-Kibar. Glyn Davies, America’s envoy to the IAEA, has said that Washington is frustrated by a perceived lack of Syrian cooperation. ‘The Syrian cooperation with the IAEA is insufficient’ said Davies, an assertion backed up by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. Davies added that it is important Damascus lets IAEA inspectors ‘do their work’, and that the US is ‘convinced that Syria is working illegally with North Korea to circumvent the nuclear non-proliferation system’. Syria, as a member of the NPT, could be at risk of receiving similar international condemnation as Iran, another country maintaining an uncooperative stance with the IAEA.

Hugh Chalmers, London

Source: U.S. Presses Syria on Suspected Nuclear Site, Global Security Newswire, 16 July 2010.