Will Iran Get Syria’s Uranium Stockpiles?
As war continues to rage in Syria, regional and international governments are growing increasingly concerned with the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons. The concern is that the deadly weapons will find their way into the hands of terrorists or terrorist-sponsoring nations, particularly Iran. But it is not only chemical weapons that could fall into terrorist hands. The Financial Times reports that Syria may hold a large stockpile of unenriched uranium.
Syria’s uranium stockpile first became an issue in 2007. Israeli satellite photos had revealed a facility on Syrian soil capable of producing weapons-grade nuclear material. Upon reviewing the reactor design, Israeli intelligence officials determined that the reactor was similar in design to those made by North Korea. Israeli intelligence determined that with the amount of uranium already obtained, Syria could potentially build five nuclear bombs. In September 2007, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the suspected nuclear facility in the northern Syrian town of Musalmiya. Israel claimed the facility was being used for nuclear purposes, despite Syria signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the site, but only found trace amounts of uranium—no stockpiles. Where did the rest of the uranium go?
This is a question that haunts many in Israel and the West. With no reactor to use the uranium, Syria can continue to hide it until it has a new reactor, or it can sell it. With the country engulfed in political and social upheaval, the option of selling the stockpile would look ever more appealing to a weakening, cash-starved government.
During the August 1990 Gulf War, many analysts worried about what Saddam Hussein would do with his biological and chemical weapons. Stockpiles were eventually found in Iraq, but not to the extent that Western intelligence agencies expected. At the time, analysts puzzled over where the stockpiles disappeared to. As it turned out, they went to Syria.
This time it may be Syria doing the selling. But who would be interested in such a vast stockpile?
Enter Iran. Iran would clearly jump at the chance to obtain Syria’s stockpile. Iran already struggles to find the uranium needed for its supposedly peaceful purposes.
Iran is a close ally to the current Syrian government. Should Iran purchase the uranium, it could easily be transported to Iran by air—or, since Iraq is already acting as a conduit for Iranian arms transfers to Syria, the uranium could even be transported via the overland route through Iraq.
The amount of potentially deadly weaponry in Syria is a great cause for concern.
If Iran gained control of the uranium stockpile, it would further crush any hopes the Obama administration holds for curbing Iran’s nuclear program. The Trumpet has long forecast that Iran would continue its ongoing quest for nuclear arms, despite international pressure. As Brad Macdonald wrote back in the December 2004 print edition of the Trumpet magazine, “Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons is essentially a push to establish itself as the preeminent nation in the Islamic world …. Its drive for nukes is simply a drive to become the dominant Islamic nation.” Should Iran get its hands on Syria’s uranium, it would signify another step forward on Iran’s path to fulfilling its ambition as the king of the south.