SYRIAN REACTOR UPDATE….So was that mysterious building in the Syrian desert (the one that was bombed last year by the Israelis) really a nuclear reactor? World Politics Review has the video that the intelligence community showed to Congress this week, so click here if you want to see it for yourself. It’s about ten minutes long. The pictures on the right, taken from the video, are photos of the Syrian reactor vessel (top) along with a comparison to the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon.

Arms Control Wonk has a transcript of the briefing, which includes this:

Now, as early as 2003, we judged that the interactions [between Syria and North Korea] probably were nuclear-related, again, because of who it was we were seeing in these interactions. But we had no details on the nature or location of the cooperative projects.

….We acquired information, though, in the spring of ’07 that enabled us to conclude that this non-descript-looking building in al Wadi, near the Euphrates River in eastern Syria was indeed a covert nuclear reactor. The information included photographs of the interior and the exterior of the building located in Dayr az Zawr showing key features of the reactor.

Basically, the intelligence community is convinced that (1) the Al Kibar facility is a plutonium reactor of North Korea design, (2) it’s poorly suited for either research or electricity production, and (3) the photos they have are genuine. However, they also have no evidence of a reprocessing facility in the region of Al Kibar and “low confidence” that Syria has any kind of serious weapons program.

So….things are still fuzzy. The intelligence briefers unanimously believed that the North Korean involvement was solely motivated by money. And the reactor by itself wouldn’t get Syria very close to any kind of real nuclear weapons production. But it doesn’t have any other purpose either.

I dunno. The evidence looks pretty strong that North Korea did indeed sell nuclear technology to the Syrians, but on the Syrian side it looks mostly like a boondoggle. There was little chance of keeping it a secret forever, and by itself it really didn’t do them any good anyway. Overall, it’s still kind of mysterious what they thought they were accomplishing here.