Syrian sources confirm death of Assad confidential aide and his nuclear link

Damascus Sunday broke its silence about the mysterious assassination of Gen. Muhammad Suleiman in Tartus early Saturday, Aug. 2 and confirmed debkafile‘s disclosure that the general played an important role in administering the al Kibar plutonium reactor. Officials in Damascus leaked to Middle East media that Suleiman was a member of the Syrian Research Commission, the government body in charge of missile, chemical and biological weapons and nuclear development.
They said he had met the team of nuclear watchdog monitors, headed by Olli Heinonen, which visited Syria in late June to check out US and Israeli charges that Syria had been building a plutonium reactor at al Kibar.
Those sources also stressed his murder was unrelated to the 2005 assassination of Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut, or any internal rivalries in the ruling regime in Damascus.
debkafile reported earlier:
Gen. Muhammad Suleiman was a shadowy figure who acted for Bashar Assad in the regime’s four most sensitive and confidential spheres:
1. He was the president’s liaison man with the North Korean government. On his frequent trips to Pyongyang, Gen. Suleiman organized the consignment of components for the plutonium reactor in northern Syria, which Israeli demolished last September, and the security of the North Korean scientists and technicians who accompanied them.
2. Muhammad Suleiman was also the president’s private channel of communication with Iranian military and intelligence chiefs; in this capacity, he most probably facilitated the Syrian-Iranian-North Korean connection. The Syrian reactor was designed to produce nuclear fuel for the Iranian program and radioactive weapons for Syria.
3. The late general also acted as the president’s contact man with Hizballah’s leaders. He worked directly with Imad Mughniyeh, head of Hizballah’s security apparatus, who was killed in Damascus last February.
4. His key function was the management of Assad’s personal interaction with the Syrian chief of staff, generals and heads of military intelligence. There was no state secret from the powerful general. He was to have accompanied the Syrian president on his state visit to Tehran Saturday; instead he was laid to rest in his home village of Driekesh in the north.
Damascus has done its utmost to keep the general’s death under wraps, but word has spread and theories abound: Speculation ranges from an outside hand, or a jealous rival to an internal element who felt the concentration of so much power in one hand was a threat to the regime.

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