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Syria Update: Curiouser and curiouser

by and Marcus Noland | May 6th, 2011 | 07:48 am
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Haaretz among others picked up aggressively on comments by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano on the bombed Syrian reactor at a press conference in Paris on April 28. The press conference was primarily focused on Fukushima clean-up, but in response to a question by an AP reporter Amano said that ”the facility that was … destroyed by Israel [in September 2007] was a nuclear reactor under construction,” repeating to the AP in taped comments afterward that ”it was a reactor under construction.”

Not so fast. The next day, the IAEA issued a “clarification”: Amano” did not say that the IAEA had reached the conclusion that the site was definitely a nuclear reactor.”

Not be deterred, the AP fired off a very nice “exclusive” the next day showing that their reporters had in fact done their homework. According to the AP, Amano’s slip reflects an internal effort on the part of the IAEA to build a case against Syria before the IAEA Board in June, clearly based on US and Israeli intelligence. The issue could then in theory be kicked up to the Security Council. Given that the reactor has been destroyed and Syria has both denied the whole venture and IAEA access, the politics of this looks complicated to us. As disturbing as this episode was, Syria is a sideshow compared to Iran; moreover, the picture is further muddied by political events within Syria.

Syrian guilt and North Korean complicity is not much in doubt; the intelligence community even had video footage of North Koreans on the site. Great satellite photos by Digital Globe ISIS, also reported by the Washington Post, showed aggressive Syrian efforts to bulldoze the site after the bombing.  Rumors have it that the North Koreans made $500 million off the deal.