(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, with the aid of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, is building a nuclear weapons device, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.
“Syria’s dictator has not given up his dream of an atomic weapon and has apparently built a new nuclear facility at a secret location. It is an extremely unsettling piece of news,” the German newsweekly reported, citing “secret information” that it obtained.
“Analysts say that the Syrian atomic weapon program has continued in a secret, underground location.
According to information they have obtained, approximately 8,000 fuel rods are stored there. Furthermore, a new reactor or an enrichment facility has very likely been built at the site – a development of incalculable geopolitical consequences,” Der Spiegel continued, sourcing its information from Western intelligence agencies.
A Hezbollah militia functionary called the underground site “Zamzam”; it is located west of the city of Qusair in the Homs Governorate, less than 2 km. from northeastern Lebanon.
The name “Zamzam” comes from a well in Mecca that Muslims believe performed a miracle for Abraham and his son Ishmael who were dying of thirst.
Der Spiegel noted that “experts believe that the new nuclear facility could never have been built without North Korean know-how. The workmanship exhibited by the fuel rods likewise hints at North Korean involvement.”
Uranium retained from Assad’s previous attempt to build a nuclear reaction was stored at Marj as-Sultan, close to Damascus, according to the report. “Satellite images from December 2012 and February 2013 show suspicious activity at Marj as-Sultan.”
The main intelligence for the discovery of a new nuclear site in Syria comes from radio communications intercepted by a network of spies.
“A voice identified as belonging to a high-ranking Hezbollah functionary can be heard referring to the ‘atomic factory’ and mentions Qusair. The Hezbollah man is clearly familiar with the site. And he frequently provides telephone updates to a particularly important man: Ibrahim Othman, the head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission,” the German magazine wrote.
It cited the prestigious Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which noted in 2003 that Syria’s “large stock of natural uranium metal poses nuclear proliferation risks. It could be obtained by organizations such as Hezbollah or al-Qaida or undeclared nuclear programs of states such as Iran.”
Asked to comment on the Der Spiegel claims, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Channel 2 he could not “relate to a pinpoint” report, “but there is no question that the Basher Assad regime has tried in the past” to set up a nuclear reactor, and that, “according to foreign sources, someone attacked it” in 2007.
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