Syria has continued developing nuclear program, Arab site says

‘Der Spiegel’ first reported suspicious site near Lebanese border in 2015.

Before and after aerial picture of the Syrian nuclear reactor site (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Before and after aerial picture of the Syrian nuclear reactor site
A decade after Israel destroyed Syria’s nearly completed nuclear reactor in Deir al-Zor province, the Assad regime might have built another nuclear facility near the Lebanese border.
According to a Syrian opposition source quoted by the British-based Arab language Al-Quds al-Arabi news site, the Assad regime established a uranium enrichment facility in the area of al-Qusayr in Homs province, a mere two kilometers from Lebanon.
The Syrians reportedly transferred uranium rods to the underground facility – which is said to be run by Iranians and North Koreans – shortly after the destruction of the al-Kibar reactor in Deir Al-Zor, which was built by the North Koreans.
Suspicions about Syrians continuing with their nuclear program was first reported by Germany’s Der Spiegel in 2015. At the time, the newspaper published an extensive piece that quoted intelligence sources and analysts who said some 8,000 fuel rods were stored at the site, which might also be housing a new reactor or enrichment facility.
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According to the report, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and North Korea were said to be involved in activities at the site, which was constructed in 2009, some two years after the Israeli strike on the al-Kibar facility.
Satellite images seen by Der Spiegel showed that the site had six structures and was connected to a power grid of the nearby city of Blosah. It also used a well that was connected to the nearby Zaita Lake. The paper said such a connection was “unnecessary for a conventional weapons cache, but it is essential for a nuclear facility.”
The article also highlighted the ongoing cooperation between Damascus, Tehran and Pyongyang. Cooperation between North Korea and Iran on ballistic missiles in Syria has also been documented.
The relationship between the Syrians and North Koreans was highlighted by a February report in The New York Times on a yet-unpublished United Nations report about North Korea’s compliance with UN sanctions.
According to the Times, two North Korean ships carrying acid-resistant tiles – commonly used in the construction of chemical weapons facilities – were intercepted en-route to Syria in January. The report also said that North Korean missile technicians had been seen working at known chemical weapons facilities and at missile factories in Syria.
The sanctions have yet to be matched “by the requisite political will, international coordination, prioritization and resource allocation necessary to drive effective implementation,” the Times quoted the report’s authors as writing.
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red lines for the Jewish state.
Israel rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria but has publicly admitted to having struck more than 100 Hezbollah convoys and other targets in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said strikes would continue when “we have information and operational feasibility.”
In December, Netanyahu said, “Let me reiterate Israel’s policy: We will not allow a regime hell-bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state to acquire nuclear weapons. We will not allow that regime to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express purpose of eradicating our state.”
Many of the details about the strike on the al-Kibar facility are still under military censorship. However last week, after a decade of ambiguity, the Israeli military took responsibility for destroying the nuclear reactor in the northeastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor in 2007, with all details about the strike attributed to “foreign reports.”