|Satellite images of suspect sites in Syria 370 (R).(Photo by: Reuters / Handout)|
'Iran may try to grab Damascus's enriched uranium'
By HERB KEINON
Israeli-US cooperation on Syria subject of conversation as PM meets visiting US lawmakers.
Syria may have up to 50 tons of enriched uranium, enough to create five nuclear
bombs, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing nuclear experts in the US
and Middle East.
Up until this point, the paper pointed out, western
governments have focused on the fate of Syria’s chemical stockpiles, and less on
the fate of the country’s uranium, which was reportedly meant for the nuclear
facility at Al-Kibar reportedly destroyed by Israel in 2007.
Financial Times quoted David Albright, head of the US-based Institute for Science
and International Security, as saying that the fears about the Syrian uranium
“There are real worries about what has happened to the
uranium that Syria was planning to put into the Al-Kibar reactor shortly before
the reactor was destroyed in 2007,” he said.
“There’s no question that,
as Syria gets engulfed in civil war, the whereabouts of this uranium are
worrying governments. There is evidence to suggest this issue has been raised by
one government directly with the IAEA.”
The paper said that some
government officials are concerned that Iran might be trying to get control of
the uranium stockpile for its own nuclear program.
The Prime Minister’s
Office had no comment on the report.
In recent days Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu has discussed with visiting US legislators on Israeli-US
intelligence cooperation regarding Syria’s chemical weapons, including images
Israel passed on to the Pentagon apparently showing Syrian troops mixing
chemicals and filling dozens of bombs with them, government officials said. The
issue of uranium, however, is not one that is believed to have been
Netanyahu met with Florida’s Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on
Tuesday and Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Monday, as well as a
delegation on the same day of seven visiting Republican congressman, led by
California’s Rep. Darrell Issa.
The New York Times on Tuesday reported
that in late November, Israel’s top military commanders discussed with the
Pentagon satellite imagery showing what appeared to be Syrian troops mixing
chemicals – probably the nerve gas sarin – at two storage sites, and filling
dozens of 500- pound bombs.
According to the report, this resulted in a
“remarkable show of international cooperation” that included a public warning by
US President Barack Obama, and sharp private messages to Syrian leaders through
Russia, Iraq, Turkey and possibly Jordan that stopped the chemical mixing and
In recent weeks Netanyahu has spoken on a number of
occasions about the close cooperation on the matter that exists between Israel,
the US, and “other countries” on the matter.
In mid-December the Prime
Minister’s Office issued a statement following a meeting with Texas
senator-elect Ted Cruz, underlining the chemical weapons
Netanyahu, according to the statement, told Cruz, “We’re
monitoring very closely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
President Obama has spoken forcefully about this. Israel and the United States
have close consultations about this issue and it highlights the dangers of these
regimes receiving such weapons, and that these weapons can even go from there to
“This is a threat to Israel, a threat to
America, a threat to others in this region. We treat it
That Netanyahu stressed this issue, and that his office at
the time decided to release his comments to the media, underscored heightened
sensitivity to the issue at the time in light of the unending bloodshed and
growing chaos in Syria.
Explaining Netanyahu’s comment, the government
official said it was important that “all the actors in Syria understand that
this is a very sensitive issue not only for Israel, but for the entire
international community.” He said “irresponsible behavior” with the chemical
weapons would not be tolerated.
The official, without elaborating at the
time, but in hindsight apparently referring to the intelligence information that
was passed on, said, “We were not speaking this way two or three weeks ago,” and
that there were “reasons for our concerns.”
On Tuesday the official said
that the close US-Israel coordination on the matter is continuing, “because the
problem is continuing.”
Netanyahu reportedly held secret discussions in
Jordan in late December concerning the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons.