Congress will get to see a video taken inside the Syrian facility later bombed by the Israelis that will demonstrate the nuclear intentions of the site as well as the involvement of North Korea. DPRK technicians appear on the clandestine video, and the design of the facility will look almost exactly like that of the scuppered Yongbyon facility that Pyongyang gave up as part of their agreement to end North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. The briefing will show how Kim Jong-Il wanted to sell DPRK expertise in nuclear technology to dangerous regimes before finally agreeing to stop:
A video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, according to senior U.S. officials who said it would be shared with lawmakers today.
The officials said the video of the remote site, code-named Al Kibar by the Syrians, shows North Koreans inside. It played a pivotal role in Israel’s decision to bomb the facility late at night last Sept. 6, a move that was publicly denounced by Damascus but not by Washington.
Sources familiar with the video say it also shows that the Syrian reactor core’s design is the same as that of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, including a virtually identical configuration and number of holes for fuel rods. It shows “remarkable resemblances inside and out to Yongbyon,” a U.S. intelligence official said. A nuclear weapons specialist called the video “very, very damning.”
Nuclear weapons analysts and U.S. officials predicted that CIA Director Michael V. Hayden‘s planned disclosures to Capitol Hill could complicate U.S. efforts to improve relations with North Korea as a way to stop its nuclear weapons program. They come as factions inside the administration and in Congress have been battling over the merits of a nuclear-related deal with North Korea.
Syria dismisses this as a “neoconservative” smear campaign, but their reactions at the time tell a much different tale. The video, if it measures up to the hype, will provide clear evidence of nuclear ambitions by the Bashar Assad regime. The Syrian ambassador claims that Damascus would not pursue nuclear weapons after seeing how the Bush administration dismembered the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq for less, and certainly they haven’t tried rebuilding Al-Kibar since its destruction.
Whether this disclosure hurts the Bush administration’s efforts to gain support for the North Korean settlement remains to be seen, but most likely it will have no effect at all. Al-Kibar didn’t just spring out of the ground in 2006; that cooperation started much earlier and continued until the Israelis bombed the facility. It hasn’t started again, and likely will not. Pyongyang won’t get many more takers in a region where both US and Israeli bombers can level new facilities, and Iran got their assistance from AQ Khan years ago. They need a resolution with the US and Japan in order to fend off starvation and find ways to legitimately acquire hard currency.
Meanwhile, Syria has made some noise lately about restarting peace talks with Israel to resolve the Golan Heights territory and other outstanding issues. The destruction of Al-Kibar apparently will go unrevenged, and Assad may have tired of his puppet status to the Tehran mullahcracy. Israel apparently checkmated Assad’s last hope of prevailing militarily over them.