Covert marine operation uncovers Syria’s return to plutonium production
In the face of Damascus’ refusal to allow UN inspectors access to three suspect “research laboratories, Western agents recently carried out a daring covert operation to collect water samples from the Orontes river in Syria where it drains into the Mediterranean, debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal. Their discoveries were presented to a closed session of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency’s board on Nov. 27-28.
Situated on the river bank near Homs is one of the three research institutes where Syrian, Iranian and North Korean technicians and scientists are suspected of reprocessing plutonium for Syria’s clandestine military nuclear program. The Orentes samples confirmed the suspicion that Syria has gone back to the plutonium project which was cut short when Israeli destroyed its reactor at Al Kibar in September 2007.
The Orontes rises at Tal al Musa north of Damascus and south of Homs. It flows into the sea near Antakya, which is north of Latakiya and west of Aleppo, not far from the Turkish border.
The IAEA board meeting was told in general teams how the tainted river samples were obtained. debkafile‘s military sources add that western nuclear technicians collected them from a boat which sailed surreptitiously up to the river mouth in Syria. To make sure of their finding, they collected river water on three different dates in the last two months.
Their discovery tied in with a separate report reaching the nuclear watchdog board that Iran and North Korea were frantically drafting in nuclear specialists to help Syria revive its plutonium reprocessing project. The product is to be stored in protected hideouts.
It was the view of some board members that Tehran and Pyongyang had determined to prove that the Israeli attack had not put Syria off its nuclear program. Both were even more insistent on showing the world that the Iranian nuclear program of which the Syrian project was a part was unstoppable.
Syria and North Korea accordingly renewed their clandestine nuclear cooperation accord on Oct. 22, so making sure of an uninterrupted flow from Pyongyang of nuclear materials, technology and experts for Syria’s covert nuclear facilities.