Remember Syria? Less than a week ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency circulated its report on Syria among member states. And though its language was studiously cautious and non-committal, one can find plenty of cause for alarm if one reads between the lines. IAEA’s Director General Mohammad ElBaradei’s findings suggest that the destroyed site was likely to be a nuclear power plant, as U.S. intelligence had indicated as early as April of this year. It also suggests that the Syrians have much to hide. After all, why would they remove significant material from the site soon after a request for a visit was filed by the IAEA? Why would they deny access to other sites the Agency wishes to visit?
So it should come as a surprise that barely a week after the report was circulated, the IAEA would even consider Syria’s request for technical assistance to identify the most suitable site for a future nuclear power plant to be built in Syria. Incidentally, the request for support of this feasibility study was submitted three weeks before Israel bombed the suspected Syrian site.
Yet, in the world of UN agencies, nothing should be a surprise. Nor is it surprising that China, Russia and other developing nations defended Syria’s request alongside ElBaradei. This makes sense for China and Russia, as a nuclear Syria helps their interests. But El Baradei? He cannot possibly be serious when he defends Syria by saying that nothing is conclusively proven about its destroyed facility. That nothing is conclusively proven does not prove innocence. And giving the green light for a feasibility study for a nuclear plant in Syria is the worst possible political message the international community could send to Syria and other likely proliferators.