Thursday, June 26, 2008

Empty Handed?

Are the IAEA inspectors going to leave Syria empty-handed?

U.N. nuclear investigators will wrap up a four-day visit to Syria on Wednesday, but, thus far, there has been absolutely no indication that they've even managed to scratch the surface of the mystery surrounding a remote Syrian building bombed by Israel in September.

U.S. officials and - off the record - Israel, claim it was a plutonium-producing reactor in the works.

Syrian authorities, who have fervently denied the allegations, have shrouded the visit by International Atomic Energy Agency visit in secrecy. No great surprise: It could well determine the fate of Damascus on the international stage.

There wasn't even official confirmation that IAEA chief inspector Olli Heinonen and his aids were in the country, as the government banned all Arab and foreign journalists from obtaining entry visas.

Just one privately owned daily, Al-Watan - which, like all Syrian media, is close to the government - made any mention of the inspection mission by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Al-Watan only carried a commentary published by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, highlighting Syria's strong denial of ever possessing a reactor.

A senior diplomat familiar with the Vienna-based IAEA said the visit by the three senior inspectors, which included a trip to the al-Kibar site flattened by Israeli war planes, went "well," but he declined to elaborate.


IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei said last week there was no evidence that Syria had the skills or fuel to run a major nuclear complex. Syria's only declared nuclear facility is an ageing research reactor long under the watchful eye of IAEA monitors.

Under its inspection agreement with the IAEA, Damascus has an obligation to report nuclear projects at the planning stage. Israel refuses to sign the agreement.

Analysts believe Damascus opened its doors to the inspectors in hopes of preventing Iran-like global sanctions, and keeping up dramatic diplomatic gains that have come from a recent thawing of relations between Damascus and the West.

Good luck selling that to the wingnuts. The same is true of Iran--it's difficult to say whether or not they'll ever come close to building a nuclear weapon because they don't have the resources to get them over the top--as in, the skills and the fuel to run a large enough operation to make a run at it. In the rush to drop bombs and start a war, is there anyone left who has the credibility to explain the contingencies to the American people? Or are we going to be bullshitted and told a bunch of lies over and over again?

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