Syria: What will we find?
Syria began its nuclear program in 1971. At the time, the Soviet Union looked like it might win the Cold War. So, the USSR saw no harm in helping the nuclear programs of Middle Eastern countries it figured to occupy eventually or make satellites as part of the USSR’s quest for warm-water ports. In 1979, after the fall of the pro-western Shah of Iran, the Mullahs invited the Russians to help Iran construct a nuclear-power reactor.
But with the collapse of the USSR in December, 1991, it is no longer in the best interest of Russia for Iran to become a nuclear power and it would be a great embarrassment for Russia if a search of Syria revealed how much U.N.-forbidden-help that the USSR and other communist nations had been giving to Syria’s nuclear-weapons program.
In 2001, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, noticed a lot of communications traffic and personnel travel between Syria and nuclear-armed North Korea. In the early spring of 2004, U.S. intelligence monitored telecommunications between Syria and North Korea. The topic was: weapons-grade plutonium.
Then, in April, 2004, a train load of weapons-grade nuclear plutonium was en route from North Korea’s nuclear facility to the North Korean seaport of Nampo for shipment by sea to Natanz, Syria. Dozens of Syria’s leading nuclear technicians were on that train. Mysteriously, the train exploded. All on board were killed. Radio-active materials were scattered across a wide area. Wonder who did that?
Lead-lined coffins were used to return the remains of the Syrian technicians to Syria. The North Koreans sealed off the explosion site. North Korean soldiers in Hazmat suits tried to recover the weapons-grade plutonium and sanitize the area. But, undeterred, the cash-strapped North Koreans found other, more surreptitious ways, to sell weapons-grade plutonium to Syria.
On September 6, 2007, Israeli fighter-bombers destroyed a nuclear reactor in northern Syria. To eliminate collateral damage, Israeli commandos used a laser-target designator to “paint” the target for the Israeli jets. President Bashar al-Assad continued to pretend that Syria had no nuclear weapons program and the Israelis were happy to pretend that they were innocent. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to cooperate with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); however, in April, 2011, the IAEA published a report saying the destroyed facility was, indeed, an undeclared nuclear reactor.
Former Iraqi Air Force General Georges Sada claims Saddam Hussein started shipping his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons into Syria in 2002, using a dam collapse in northwestern Syria as cover for shipments of what Saddam claimed was “humanitarian” aid to Syria.
Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom in March, 2003, allied intelligence detected an unusual amount of heavy truck and air traffic flowing out of Iraq and into northern Syria. Post-invasion, months of searching inside Iraq by Coalition Forces found little in the way of actual weapons of mass destruction (WMD); however, they did find facilities for the manufacture of various forms of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
A number of authorities claim Saddam hid his WMD in Syria. The list includes: General James Clapper, Jordan’s King Abdallah; U.N.inspector, David Kay, and Israeli Lt. General Moshe Yaalom. Former Russian General Yeygeni Primakov says he oversaw Operation Sarandar that used Spetsnaz and other Russian assets to convoy Saddam’s weapons from Iraq into Syria.
Fast forward to 2012 and the almost certain overthrow of the Bashar al-Assad regime. Given unfettered access to Syria, we might find Saddam’s missing WMD. Darn. We may have invaded the wrong country.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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