Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Syrian Nuclear Aspirations?

Der Spiegel this week alleged that Syria is attempting to work towards a nuclear weapon, with varying types of assistance from Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea. If true, this would be a massive story, with significant geopolitical ramifications. Syria has denied the allegations.

Syria is party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as is Iran, while North Korea is not. Under this treaty, states are prohibited from developing nuclear weapons and from helping others develop these technologies.

In 2006, the IAEA ruled that Iran is in "non-compliance" with the NPT, namely, Iran's safeguards agreement. If these new allegations are true, Iran would be in blatant violation of this treaty. Given the attempted rapprochement between Iran and the West, primarily regarding its nuclear program, a discovery of this nature would almost certainly cause irreparable damage to ongoing nuclear negotiations. Iran would also face new, harsh sanctions.

The report from Der Spiegel however, is poorly sourced, and experts have claimed that the information contained in the report is in fact, incorrect. The report cites "Western intelligence agencies" as the source for this information, and indicates that Der Spiegel has documents from these sources showing that Syria is working to build a nuclear weapon.

As is the case with any anonymous source, a proper vetting of the information is necessary, yet in this instance near impossible. It would be very difficult to have two separate sources able to confirm this information. Information regarding Iran's nuclear program is notoriously hard to come by. While there have been cases when new and valid information was revealed, there are also many instances of false and misleading information released by the same sources.

It is best to take this report with a grain of salt. It is unclear if the documents held by Der Spiegel are legitimate, or an attempt by the hawkish members of the Western coalition who wish to avoid any reconciliation between Iran and the West, to falsify documents to push their agenda.

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