Al-Qaeda Today/ Syria’s Nuclear Secrets
Aug 21, 2008 | AIJAC staff
Update from AIJAC
August 21, 2008
Number 08/08 #08
Today’s Update features two new pieces detailing expert debates about the current status and capabilities of al-Qaeda.
First up, Peter Bergen, a top author specialising in al-Qaeda, discusses the controversy between analysts and intelligence agencies who argue that the organisation has become largely localised and leaderless and those who argue that the central organisation in northern Pakistan is getting stronger and is increasingly dangerous. He also has some good discussion of how the increasingly inhospitable situation in Iraq has affected the organisation. Bergen himself argues that the organisation is becoming less dangerous and is essentially losing because it has forfeited most of its support in the Muslim world, but that it has sparked a dangerous legacy of radical terrorism that will live on for a long time. To read it all, CLICK HERE.
Next up, Peter Brooks, a former senior US defence official turned terror analyst, also looks at the latest trends from al-Qaeda, and says the organisation is battered, but unbroken and finding new ways to threaten. Brooks is particularly concerned about the ability of al-Qaeda and those linked with it to propagandise, recruit and train over the internet, and their quest for terrorist recruits native to Western countries. He says its internet efforts are highly sophisticated and effective, and we must find equally sophisticated ways to adapt and counter these efforts. For Brooks’ complete discussion, CLICK HERE.
Finally, on a separate topic, Ephraim Asculai, top Israeli specialist on nuclear proliferation, urges the pressing need for the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) to complete its investigation into the bombed site at Al-Kibar in Syria. He points out the overwhelming evidence that this was a nuclear facility, the extensive Syrian efforts to encase all evidence in concrete, and the prevention of IAEA efforts to follow up an initial cursory inspection. For this important analysis of a troubling but generally forgotten problem, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, also on Syria, Amir Kulack, a colleague of Asculai at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, looks at possible explanations for the mysterious murder of General Mohammed Suleiman, a key aide to Syrian President Assad, a couple of weeks ago.
Readers may also be interested in:
- A report on al-Qaeda affiliates operating in Gaza.
- Historian Anna Geifman discusses the relationship between modern terrorism and the Russian revolution.
- Revelations that in the 1980s, Italy had a deal with Palestinian terror groups to allow them to operate freely in that country.
- A couple of comments on Pakistan in the aftermath of the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf, from the Jerusalem Post and the Wall Street Journal.
- Rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza continue, despite the ceasefire – see here and here.
- Comment and analysis about the upcoming Kadima leadership battle continues thick and fast in Israel. Just a few interesting contributions are here, here, here, here, here and here.
Al-Qaeda At 20… … Dead or Alive?
By Peter Bergen
Washington Post, August 17, 2008; B01
Two decades after al-Qaeda was founded in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar by Osama bin Laden and a handful of veterans of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the group is more famous and feared than ever. But its grand project — to transform the Muslim world into a militant Islamist caliphate — has been, by any measure, a resounding failure.
In large part, that’s because bin Laden’s strategy for arriving at this Promised Land is a fantasy. Al-Qaeda’s leader prides himself on being a big-think strategist, but for all his brains, leadership skills and charisma, he has fastened on an overall strategy that is self-defeating.
Bin Laden’s main goal is to bring about regime change in the Middle East and to replace the governments in Cairo and Riyadh with Taliban-style theocracies. He believes that the way to accomplish this is to attack the “far enemy” (the United States), then watch as the supposedly impious, U.S.-backed Muslim regimes he calls the “near enemy” crumble.
This might have worked if the United States had turned out to be a paper tiger that could sustain only a few blows from al-Qaeda. But it didn’t. Bin Laden’s analysis showed no understanding of the vital interests — oil, Israel and regional stability — that undergird U.S. engagement in the Middle East, let alone the intensity of American outrage that would follow the first direct attack on the continental United States since the British burned the White House in 1814.
In fact, bin Laden’s plan resulted in the direct opposite of a U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. The United States now occupies Iraq, and NATO soldiers patrol the streets of Kandahar, the old de facto capital of bin Laden’s Taliban allies. Relations between the United States and most authoritarian Arab regimes, meanwhile, are stronger than ever, based on their shared goal of defeating violent Islamists out for American blood and the regimes’ power.
For most leaders, such a complete strategic failure would require a rethinking. Not for bin Laden. He could have formulated a new policy after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban in the winter of 2001, having al-Qaeda and its allies directly attack the sclerotic near-enemy regimes; he could have told his followers that, in strictly practical terms, provoking the world’s only superpower would clearly interfere with al-Qaeda’s goal of establishing Taliban-style rule from Indonesia to Morocco.
Instead, bin Laden continues to conceive of the United States as his main foe, as he has explained in audio- and videotapes that he has released since 2001. At the same time, al-Qaeda has fatally undermined its claim to be the true representative of all Muslims by killing thousands of them since Sept. 11, 2001. These two strategic blunders are the key reasons why bin Laden and his group will ultimately lose. But don’t expect that defeat anytime soon. For now, al-Qaeda continues to gather strength, both as a terrorist/insurgent organization based along the Afghan-Pakistani border and as an ongoing model for violent Islamists around the globe.
So how strong — or weak — is al-Qaeda at 20? Earlier this year, a furious debate erupted in Washington between two influential counterterrorism analysts. On one side is a former CIA case officer, Marc Sageman, who says that the threat from al-Qaeda’s core organization is largely over and warns that future attacks will come from the foot soldiers of a “leaderless jihad” — self-starting, homegrown radicals with no formal connection to bin Laden’s cadre. On the other side of the debate stands Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman, who warns that al-Qaeda is on the march, not on the run.
This debate is hardly academic. If the global jihad has in fact become a leaderless one, terrorism will cease to be a top-tier U.S. national security problem and become a manageable, second-order threat, as it was for most of the 20th century. Leaderless organizations can’t mount spectacular operations such as 9/11, which required years of planning and training. On the other hand, if al-Qaeda Central is as strong as Hoffman thinks it is, the United States will have to organize its policies in the Middle East, South Asia and at home around that threat for decades.
Sageman’s view of the jihadist threat as local and leaderless is largely shared by key counterterrorism officials in Europe, who told me that they can’t find any evidence of al-Qaeda operations in their countries. Baltasar Garzon, a judge who has investigated terrorist groups in Spain for the past decade, says that while bin Laden remains “a fundamental reference point for the al-Qaeda movement,” he doesn’t see any of the organization’s fingerprints in his recent inquiries.
But this view is not shared by top counterterrorism officials in the United Kingdom and the United States. A 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded that al-Qaeda was growing more dangerous, not less.
Why the starkly differing views? Largely because U.S. and British officials are contending with an alarming new phenomenon, the deadly nexus developing between some militant British Muslims and al-Qaeda’s new headquarters in Pakistan’s lawless borderlands. The lesson of the July 2005 London subway bombings, the foiled 2006 scheme to bring down transatlantic jetliners and several other unnerving plots uncovered in the United Kingdom is that the bottom-up radicalization described by Sageman becomes really lethal only when the homegrown wannabes manage to make contact with the group that so worries Hoffman, al-Qaeda Central in Pakistan.
“Hotheads in a coffeehouse are a dime a dozen,” said Michael Sheehan, who until 2006 was the deputy New York police commissioner responsible for counterterrorism. “Al-Qaeda Central is often the critical element in turning the hotheads into an actual capable cell.” Which is why it’s so worrisome that counterterrorism officials have noticed dozens of Europeans making their way to the tribal areas of Pakistan in the past couple of years.
That’s a major shift. Until 2006, hardcore European jihadists would have traveled to Iraq. But the numbers doing so now have dwindled to almost zero, according to several European counterterrorism officials. That’s because al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq has committed something tantamount to suicide.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq once held vast swaths of Sunni-dominated turf and helped spark a civil war by targeting Iraqi Shiites. But when the group imposed Taliban-style measures, such as banning smoking and shaving, on Iraq’s Sunni population and started killing other insurgents who didn’t share its ultra-fundamentalist views, other Sunnis turned against it. Today al-Qaeda in Iraq is dead, at least as an insurgent organization capable of imposing its will on the wider population. It can still perpetrate large-scale atrocities, of course, and could yet spoil Iraq’s fragile truce by again attacking Iraqi Shiites. But for the moment, al-Qaeda in Iraq is on the run, demoralized and surrounded by enemies.
While that’s good news for Iraq, there are alarming signs elsewhere. The border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, an area where jihadists operate with something close to impunity, has become a magnet for foreign fighters. One particularly unwelcome development here: Al-Qaeda Central now exerts a great deal of ideological sway over Baitullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Taliban movement inside Pakistan, who has vowed to attack New York and London.
Next door in Afghanistan, the Taliban have also increasingly adopted bin Laden’s worldview and tactics, which has helped them launch a dangerously effective insurgency based on sustained suicide attacks and the deft use of IEDs. And bin Laden’s influence extends well beyond the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. The same mainland European counterterrorism officials who are relieved not to be finding al-Qaeda Central cells in their own countries now worry that bin Laden’s North African ally, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, may be finding recruits among poorly integrated North African immigrants living in France, Belgium, Spain and Italy.
Al-Qaeda’s war for hearts and minds goes on, too. Bin Laden once observed that 90 percent of his battle is waged in the media — and here, above all, he remains both relevant and cutting-edge. The most reliable guide to what al-Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement will do have long been bin Laden’s public statements.
Since 9/11, bin Laden has issued more than two dozen video- and audiotapes, according to IntelCenter, a government contractor that tracks al-Qaeda’s propaganda activities. Those messages have reached untold millions worldwide via TV, the Internet and newspapers. The tapes exhort al-Qaeda’s followers to continue to kill Westerners and Jews, and some have also carried specific instructions for militant cells. In the past year, for instance, bin Laden has called for attacks on the Pakistani state — one of the reasons Pakistan saw more suicide attacks in 2007 than at any other time in its history.
Despite al-Qaeda’s recent resurgence, I think it highly unlikely that the group will be able to attack inside the United States in the next five years. In the past, al-Qaeda terrorists trying to strike the U.S. homeland have had to slip inside from elsewhere, as the 9/11 hijackers did. No successful past plot has relied on al-Qaeda “sleeper cells” here, and there is little evidence that such cells exist today. Moreover, the United States is a much harder target than it was before 9/11. The U.S. government is on alert, as are ordinary citizens. (Just ask the would-be shoe-bomber, Richard Reid.)
Of course, homegrown terrorists inspired by al-Qaeda might carry out a small-bore attack inside the United States, although the U.S. Muslim community, which is far better integrated than its European counterparts, has produced few violent radicals. And al-Qaeda itself remains quite capable of attacking a wide range of U.S. interests overseas, killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and targeting U.S. embassies. But on balance, we have less to fear from al-Qaeda now than we did in 2001.
We would also be far better off if we managed to kill or capture al-Qaeda’s innovative chief. So what is the U.S.-led hunt for bin Laden turning up? The short answer is nothing. Washington hasn’t had a solid lead on him since radio intercepts placed him at the battle of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan in December 2001. U.S. intelligence officials widely assume that he is now in or near Pakistan’s tribal areas — a particularly shrewd hiding place, according to Arthur Keller, a former CIA officer who ran a spy network there in 2006.
Keller told me that al-Qaeda’s leaders have excellent operational security. “They have had a Darwinian education in what can give them away, and their tradecraft has improved as we have eliminated some of the less careful members of their organization,” he noted. “They’re hiding in a sea of people who are very xenophobic of outsiders, so it’s a very, very tough nut to crack.”
No matter what bin Laden’s fate, Muslims around the world are increasingly taking a dim view of his group and its suicide operations. In the late 1990s, bin Laden was a folk hero to many Muslims. But since 2003, as al-Qaeda and its affiliates have killed Muslim civilians by the thousands from Casablanca to Kabul, support for bin Laden has nose-dived, according to Pew polls taken in key Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan.
At 20, al-Qaeda is losing its war, but its influence will live on. As Michael Scheuer, who founded the CIA’s bin Laden unit in 1996, points out, “Their mission is accomplished: worldwide instigation and inspiration.” To our grief, that legacy will endure, even after al-Qaeda is defeated.
Peter Bergen is a fellow at both the New America Foundation and New York University’s Center on Law and Security. He is the author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know.”
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Flashpoint: As the terror turns
Al-Qaida is shifting its tactics and finding new followers
BY PETER BROOKES
Armed Forces Journal, August 2008
The good news is that nearly seven years after Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida appears to be battered. The bad news is that like a prize fighter, it is bloodied, but not bowed — leaving it still capable of dealing a devastating blow. In June, CIA Director Michael Hayden trumpeted the good news, telling the Washington Post that al-Qaida movements in Iraq and Saudi Arabia were essentially defeated and struggling elsewhere, including in the terrorism hot-bed Pakistan. In truth, some doubt Hayden’s take on Pakistan, especially with Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri still on the loose in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
But, according to experts, there is bad news, too. The Islamist terrorist threat is still evolving, and the gains made on the ground against this scourge could easily be reversed. Their warning: If we do not take heed of, and adapt to, new trends in terrorism, the tide could ultimately turn against us, resulting — once again — in a tragedy on the scale of 9/11 or worse.
Perhaps the most fundamental change is that al-Qaida is a different organization than it was nearly seven years ago when it struck New York City and the Pentagon. Although it still pushes a strict view of Islam, sharply sorting the world into believers and non-believers (including Muslims), and advocates violent jihad to depose of apostate governments to establish a vast caliphate under repressive sharia law, al-Qaida is not the same as it was in 2001.
Today, among other shifts, bin Laden is more inspirational than operational. Although he is still dangerous, for the moment, he is more of a terrorist icon than a terrorist operative — as long as he is under pressure and on the run. It is believed he is not directing al-Qaida’s day-to-day terrorism operations around the world like he did before 9/11, when Afghanistan provided a safe haven for him and his acolytes to plan, train and operate, courtesy of their landlords, the Taliban. Instead, he has become a forceful mouthpiece for al-Qaida’s global jihad, rather than a commander in the field, providing encouragement as well as guidance to like-minded extremists.
Indeed, he and the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri have developed a significant — and highly successful — propaganda machine, mastering the Internet and Islamist jihadist media outlets to advance their movement across the globe.
Without question, al-Qaida’s Internet propaganda machine is working overtime to spread its extremist message, seeking recruits and funding, and pushing its foot soldiers to commit acts of terror to overcome setbacks on the ground in places such as Iraq (as a result of the surge). In many ways, al-Qaida has been its own worst enemy in places like Iraq, a place it saw as a central front in its holy war. According to analysts, locals have come to see themselves as tools — even victims — of the terrorist group, which is pursuing its own goals, often at great cost to the people it seeks to lead.
Islamist terrorist groups prize the Web, releasing a regular torrent of multimedia products — from print manifestos by radical leaders to online terrorism encyclopedias to videos of attacks — for digestion by current and would-be supporters around the world. For instance, al-Qaida’s online flack is a mysterious media operation called the al-Sahab Institute for Media Production, according to Daniel Kimmage, an analyst with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who penned a recent report on the issue. Using that and other outlets, such as the Global Islamic Media Front and al-Fajr Media Center, to push the party line of violence and hate, the terrorist groups seek to frighten some, while winning needed support from sympathetic audiences.
Of course, much of the message is that the West, especially the U.S. and select European countries, is in a war against Islam; that Muslims are required to defend their religion; and that violence against innocents in the guise of holy war may be necessary in defense of Islam, according to experts. Indeed, Zawahiri wrote in a now-famous letter to his now-deceased henchman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: “We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media, … a race for the hearts and minds of our people.”
Equally important, al-Qaida uses friendly media outlets to project an image of power, presence and prestige within the Muslim world — critical for keeping the movement afloat as its indiscriminate violence has alienated many possible minions.
Make no mistake: Al-Qaida’s Web work is not amateurish stuff, even in a day of YouTube-like productions. These extremist-associated outlets are feverishly improving the quality of their Web sites, videos and print materials. Also particularly interesting is the level of message control these various extremist Web sites are able to achieve — a key to efficient and effective information warfare. (This also tends to indicate some level of coordination among these media outlets.) They also are targeting young people and women — both new emphases of al-Qaida recruitment — with their online propaganda. The Web sites are quickly translating their mantra into other languages, too, especially English and European tongues. Production levels of these outlets are at all-time highs, analysts say.
In fact, experts say they believe Internet radicalization is replacing in-person radicalization, which used to take place in tea houses, coffee shops, mosques, madrassas or overseas terrorist camps. This allows the Web wing to serve as an enabler for al-Qaida & Co. in building ties with the sympathetic. It also allows al-Qaida to radicalize those on the margins, using emotional issues such as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia to mobilize them to action. Local grievances also are manipulated to advance al-Qaida’s agenda.
In addition, those already enlisted can use extremist sites to participate in distance learning by getting training and expertise in the terrorist black arts, such as making a car or truck bomb or vest for a suicide bomber, via online libraries. The growing use of the Internet to identify and connect with people and groups around the world offers opportunities to network, establishing ties and passing on experience and tricks of the trade only previously available in overseas camps, according to U.S. government officials. Some have dubbed the Internet a “virtual haven” for the terrorist.
Since the struggle with Islamist terrorism is, ultimately, a battle of ideas, dealing with the rise of extremism on the Internet is, perhaps, the most difficult challenge, especially because of its appeal to the younger generation. Which leads to the next worry: homegrown terrorists. Al-Qaida has long sought to recruit terrorist operatives already in place in the West, who have no need to get passports, nor to transit immigration and customs checkpoints to reach their targets. These operatives are locals who already have legal residency in a target country and, as such, blend seamlessly into the fabric of society, possibly not raising one iota of suspicion with their fellow citizens or, more importantly, intelligence or law enforcement.
Bin Laden has been especially keen to recruit converts to Islam. These new adherents can often easily overcome the challenges of racial profiling. But, even better, they may be eager to prove their worth to their new faith by undertaking acts of terrorism, leading to martyrdom. There is a sinking sense that Islamist radicalization is catching fire in Europe. This is based on the increased number of plots in recent years, involving homegrown terrorists there, as well as Europeans serving in violent jihad overseas. An April Europol report indicated that terrorist attacks in the European Union (EU) were up almost 25 percent in 2007 over 2006, and that Pakistan-based al-Qaida groups are the main drivers of extremism and terrorism concerns in the EU.
Plus, analysts say they believe al-Qaida and its affiliates in South Asia, the Mahgreb and the Horn of Africa are interested in recruiting terrorists from — and then deploying them back to — their homes in Europe. These people would have the advantage of having local passports and being familiar with Western cultures, allowing them to travel freely in and out of Europe — and, perhaps, even to the U.S., still a key target of al-Qaida. Indeed, Hayden warned Congress in testimony earlier this year of an “influx of Western recruits” — meaning Europeans — into the troubled tribal areas of Pakistan since 2006, which suggests potential terrorism problems across the pond. Moreover, Europol also reported “dozens” of British passport holders fighting alongside Islamists in Somalia who may as well be training in camps there in preparation for future attacks in the United Kingdom — or elsewhere.
As is well known, homegrown terrorists pulled off deadly attacks on public transportation systems in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005. Other plots, some of which included American targets, have been hatched, or carried out, in recent years in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Denmark. The British feel particularly under the gun; their law enforcement and intelligence authorities are tracking tens of active plots, hundreds of terrorist cells and more than 2,000 people in the United Kingdom who may be associated in some way with the conspiracies. No surprise: The 2006 London-based attempt to use liquid explosives to bring down 10 or so airliners over the Atlantic flying from the U.K. to Canada and the U.S. easily could have produced more victims than 9/11. Some of the suspects in the case told British investigators they intended to bomb the airliners not over the Atlantic but over U.S. and Canadian cities to increase the victim count.
It’s not just Europe. We’ve also had terrorism attempts here, too, by so-called “self-radicalized” people who were inspired by, but had little or no physical contact with, al-Qaida. Terrorist cells in places such as Ohio, Illinois, California, New York and New Jersey targeted the U.S. government, the military and critical infrastructure. Compounding concerns is the lone-wolf terrorist, a particular worry for the FBI. The lone wolf could fly below everyone’s radar because he would have no contact with other local conspirators or terrorist groups overseas that might tip off law enforcement of a plot in advance of an attack, according to a recent congressional report.
But it is not only the homegrown terrorist who worries analysts.
Of course, terrorists have long been funded by individuals, charities and front organizations. But today, they are also increasingly getting funding through illicit activities such as narco-trafficking and trafficking-in-persons. For instance, Afghanistan’s burgeoning poppy crop, which is responsible for more than 80 percent of the world’s supply of heroin, provides 40 percent to 60 percent of the Taliban’s operational income, according to both American and United Nations’ analysts. There is little doubt that al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan is getting a cut, too, providing the group with a nearly endless source of funding, considering the drug trade’s profitability, continuing global demand and the challenges in fighting it. Al-Qaida and others can use narco-profits to plan, train and operate, including procuring weapons, paying for travel and expenses, gathering intelligence, bribing local officials and others, and developing support structure such as camps and safe houses.
Terrorist groups also are making money through trafficking in persons, the State Department reports. Although these networks often are used to smuggle people for the sex trade and other nefarious purposes, these same networks are moving foreign fighters, particularly into Iraq. Naturally, these highly profitable criminal networks, including those that have brought millions of illegal immigrants to the U.S. (from well beyond Latin America), also could be used for getting terrorists into the United States.
Smuggling a terrorist into the country is one thing, but of equal concern is that one of these networks moving a person across the American border also could smuggle in a weapon of mass destruction, which U.S. intelligence is still convinced al-Qaida is interested in procuring — and using.
Al-Qaida and its allies continue to nimbly adapt their menacing means and methods to the countermeasures we take, meaning we must evolve with equal vigor to the twists and turns in terrorist tactics. Significant challenges remain in dealing with terrorism — in the battle of ideas and on the battlefield. As such, we must guard against not only terrorism, but also our own complacency.
PETER BROOKES is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who also served in the Navy, with the CIA and on Capitol Hill.
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Nukes under concrete?
THE JERUSALEM POST, Aug. 16, 2008
In some old gangster films, as well as probably in real life, there is the scene where the victim is thrown into a building construction mold and drowned in a thick layer of cement. A tell-tale shoe that fell off in the old movies – and more recently the hidden security camera – provides the clues that bring the culprit to justice, even though the body has not been found. The case of Syria’s bombed Al-Kibar site holds many similarities to these gangster movie scenarios.
The photographic evidence of the existence of a nuclear reactor under construction at the site was overwhelming: pictures of the reactor under construction, with great similarities to a North Korean plutonium production reactor, and its later camouflage by the construction of a surrounding building that completely enclosed the structure; the intake of water from the Euphrates River and the outlet of returning water from the building back into the downstream of the river, which indicated the existence of a strong energy source at the site. The most damning piece of evidence probably is the way the Syrians razed the site, poured concrete over it and claimed that it was some sort of a military site and not a nuclear reactor.
THIS SHOULD have been enough for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to indict Syria for its violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, the IAEA requested an inspection of the bombed site in the hope that it would be able to collect evidence that would clinch the matter. A four-day inspection trip was made in June 2008, months after the Syrians finished their clean-up of the site, but was probably limited by the Syrians to “classical” IAEA inspection methods of visual observations and collection of samples. It is doubtful whether these would uncover much, given the Syrian efforts at a cleanup. The “corpse” still lies buried in the huge amount of poured concrete. It is possible, however, that the IAEA inspectors were getting too close for comfort, since Syria recently announced that it would not permit the inspectors to return to the site.
In addition, the Syrians made an important diplomatic move, seeking a seat on the IAEA Board of Governors, a 35-member forum that could decide that Syria violated its obligations. Since most of the decisions in this body are made by consensus, Syria would thus insure itself against condemnation. Thus, by refusing inspections and gaining the seat of governor, which it has a good chance of doing, Syria is taking out double insurance.
THE TIME has come for the IAEA to take a strong stance on the Syrian issue and state that the burden is now upon Syria to prove that there was no reactor under construction at the site. Syria would have to permit the most intrusive inspections, using advanced technologies, such as thus called for in on-site inspections of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. If Syria is unwilling to do this, it should be censured and, at the very least, banned from becoming a member of the IAEA Board of Governors. Given the attitude of the present Director General of the IAEA, it is doubtful that this will happen.
The United States is also an important actor in the Syrian affair, since it provided the evidence on Syria’s misdeeds, and the connection to North Korea. The US is acting against the proposal to let Syria become a member of the Board. If it can persuade North Korea to disclose its connection to the Syrian nuclear reactor, it will put an end to Syria’s lies and denials.
The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).