Russia to Build Nuclear Power Plant in Syria?

For the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia’s president visited Syria. Of all the things to discuss and announce, Dmitri Medvedev and Bashar Assad held a press conference afterward where they announced that they had talked about nuclear cooperation, including the potential construction of a nuclear power plant in Syria. Any effort by Syria to get nuclear weapons capability must be seen as an extension of Iran’s own efforts.

By exporting part of their program to Syria, the Iranians can accelerate their own program or even suspend it to alleviate international pressure while continuing the work outside their borders. Any Israeli campaign to destroy the Iranian nuclear infrastructure will now require attacks on two countries. While the West seems to look at the nuclear programs of Iran, Syria, and North Korea as separate entities, they are in reality a Nuclear axis of evil with each partner contributing to the efforts of the others.

The success of the internationalization of WMD programs will cause other countries like Sudan, Burma, and Venezuela to join in, expediting their own pursuits while providing the overall alliance with additional security. This club can be likened to a modernized version of the AQ Khan network, where expertise, supplies, and technology are shared across borders.

In September 2007, Israel bombed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria that was believed to be designed to create weapons-grade plutonium. Iran’s own nuclear reactor that could suit such a purpose has suffered from delay after delay by its Russian constructors. If the al-Kibar site in Syria were activated, this would allow Iran and Syria to pursue a nuclear bomb via plutonium in addition to the uranium track already being pursued.

The Syrians are clearly hiding the purpose of the site. A former senior German defense official says that North Korean shipments to the site had been detected since 2002, and the Syrians relied upon personal couriers for communication instead of radios and phones to stop Western intelligence from learning about their activity. Ali Reza Asghari, the former deputy defense minister of Iran who defected in 2007, claimed that Iranians were paying the North Koreans to develop the site. This same year, Syria received an estimated 45 tons of uranium yellowcake from North Korea, which is probably in Iran’s hands now.

Following the attack, satellite photos showed that the Syrians quickly began cleansing the site and removing the remains, which they are not allowing the IAEA to examine. The U.S. ambassador to the IAEA said that similar clean-ups were seen at two other nuclear sites after the agency asked about them. The site closely resembles the Yongbyon reactor in North Korea and is estimated by the CIA to have been capable of making enough plutonium for one or two bombs annually.