Nuclear Weapons Program Probably Not Among the Many Crimes of Assad

We should all be grateful that Syrian President Assad apparently never began a nuclear weapons program. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

We should all be grateful that Syrian President Assad apparently never began a nuclear weapons program. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

At LobeLog, former British ambassador to the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency Peter Jenkins casts doubt on the belief that the Syrian structure attacked by Israel in 2007 was a nuclear reactor intended to process plutonium for nuclear weapons.

What I wrote earlier this month about the reasons to doubt the wisdom of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board’s decision to find Syria non-compliant with its IAEA safeguards agreement led to contact with a retired senior inspector [who] is very familiar with the North Korean [model] which the Syrian reactor at Dair Alzour is said to have resembled.

Access to this specialized knowledge has driven me to the conclusion that there is a high degree of uncertainty as to whether the structure destroyed by an Israeli raid in September 2007 housed a nuclear reactor.

Jenkins explains that the IAEA “inspection team found at Dair Alzour ‘a significant number’ of man-made natural uranium (aU) particles.” In point of fact, he writes:

… according to my ex-inspector contact, as well as an unchallenged Syrian statement in [the IAEA report], only three particles of aU were found. In the ex-inspector’s opinion, a far greater number should have been found if an initial load of natural uranium fuel (over 50 tons) was already on site in September 2007.

You can be forgiven if your reaction is “So what? Why worry about an unsubstantiated charge if it’s any use in bringing down the Assad regime?” Jenkins reminds us of the big picture and the international implications.

Justice is always and everywhere desirable. Where the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime is concerned, justice is essential.