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01/13/2008

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Mojo

"Israel’s air attack was directed against what Israeli and American intelligence analysts had judged to be a partly constructed nuclear reactor." Wrong! A couple of US intelligence analysts associated with neo-con members of the administration had claimed that. But even the Times' earlier stories had admitted (buried below the fold) that many other analysts disputed the claim. How many times do these same unnamed sources need to lie to them before they finally catch on?

matt

Jeffrey Lewis at ArmsControlWonk has a good write-up on the Mystery Box: http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1766/the-box-is-back

matt

More thoughts: one thing that was missing the first time around with the suspicious site in Syria was a succession of photos detailing the evolution of construction at the site. All that existed in the public domain was satellite imagery from 2003, when the building was in full view but no other corresponding infrastructure colored the site.

Later, the same building appeared (little to no progress visible since the focus of the Syrians' effort was internal to the building) with a random secondary facility nearby as well as what appeared to be a water pump along the Euphrates.

It was the pump and the building's dimensions that led some analysts to conclude what was being concealed was a nascent reactor under construction. But the lack of an associated reprocessing facility, extensive in country human capital capable of supporting a program, and, most importanly, defenses even as minimal as a fence at the building led others to conclude it was not a reactor.

Early suspicion held that the foundation for a reactor had been constructed, the building went up first then the components for the reactor were brought in later. This time around, there have been no reports of a foundation being layed prior to the rapid construction of this new building. I would imagine analysts would have been watching this site with a hawk's eye since September 6, and would have noticed renewed construction activity that resembled foundation-laying activities consistent with a reactor's construction.

My guess is the Syrians were hoping to present the Israelis, the West, and IAEA inspectors with a fait accompli at the site, meaning inspections are no longer feasible with a new building and likely a new purpose (irrespective of the purpose of the previous structure, illicit or not) than before. Still, Syria's behavior is feeding suspicions left and right.

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