U.N. experts have begun analyzing satellite imagery of the Syrian site struck last month by Israeli warplanes, looking for any signs it was a secret nuclear facility, diplomats said Friday.
It was unclear where the material was obtained or what exactly it showed. One of the diplomats, who is linked to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the experts were studying commercial images, contrary to earlier suggestions they came from U.S. intelligence.
Separately, a senior diplomat familiar with the issue indicated the experts were looking at several possible locations for the Israeli strike. Two other diplomats said initial examination of the material found no evidence the target was a nuclear installation, but emphasized it was too early to draw definitive conclusions. [complete article]
While expressing concern over the prospect that Syria may have decided to launch a nuclear program in secret, some weapons experts question why neither Israel nor the United States made any effort before the secret attack — or in the six weeks since — to offer evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a move that would trigger an inspection of Syria by the nuclear watchdog.
“The reason we have an IAEA and a safeguard system is that, if there is evidence of wrongdoing, it can be presented by a neutral body to the international community so that a collective response can be pursued,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It seems to me highly risky and premature for another country to bomb such a facility.” [complete article]
One US intelligence source familiar with the events expressed concern about recent news reports describing Syria as having a functioning nuclear weapons program and cautioned against attributing those reports to the US intelligence community.
“The allegations that North Korea was helping to build a nuclear reactor have not been substantiated by US intelligence,” said this intelligence official, adding, “ but that hasn’t stopped Dick Cheney and his minions at the NSC, Elliot Abrams and Steve Hadley, from leaking the information [to the press], which appears to be misleading in the extreme.” [complete article]
See also, Syrian “copy” of Yongbyon? (Arms Control Wonk) and Syrian’s comment on bomb target mistranslated: U.N. (Reuters).