Possible Syrian nuke facility identified by satellite

Footage of Masyaf shows missile shaped items; IAEA urges Syria to let inspectors visit reactor that IAF destroyed in 2007.

December 3, 2010 04:16
2 minute read.
Suspect nuclear site in Syria.

Syrian nuclear site 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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A compound in western Syria with buildings and hundreds of missile-shaped items has been identified as functionally related to a nuclear reactor Israel destroyed northeast of Damascus in 2007.

Satellite footage of the site in Masyaf was obtained by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security and shows a compound built in a ravine and surrounded by what appears to be a line of trenches.

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While there are no security measures visible in the commercial satellite imagery, ISIS said building a facility in a ravine was a common method of providing general protection and isolation.

Several years ago, a military base near Masyaf was mentioned as a possible hiding place for weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein might have sent to Syria before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

ISIS head David Albright, who analyzed the satellite footage, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the site at Masyaf could be a military storage facility. Hundreds of items seen stored in rows out in the open could be missiles or truck beds, he said.

“We have identified one site and learned the approximate locations of three other sites as well,” Albright said.

On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board convened in Vienna to discuss Syria’s continued refusal to allow inspectors to visit the site of the al-Kibar reactor, in Syria’s Deir Alzour region, that was destroyed by Israel in September 2007, or other sites, like the one near Masyaf that are suspected of being functionally related to the reactor. When the IAF bombed the reactor it was two-to-three weeks away from becoming operational and it would have been capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons.

IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano told the board on Thursday that he recently sent a letter to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem urging him to grant inspectors access to the sites.

“Syria has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008 in connection with the unresolved issues related to the Deir Alzour site and some other locations,” Amano said. “As a consequence, the agency has not been able to make progress towards resolving the outstanding issues related to those sites.”

Albright said that he commissioned the satellite photos of the suspected site near Masyaf to raise awareness of Syria’s continued violations ahead of the IAEA meeting.

“The issue needs more attention and there needs to be a special inspection by the IAEA at al-Kibar and other sites that are relevant,” he said. “The issue is not getting enough attention and Syria can destroy evidence and can get away with it by stonewalling the IAEA.”

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