Before and after images of Syria's Al Kibar reactor, which was destroyed in a 2007 Israeli air strike. (YouTube/Screenshots) (YouTube/Screenshots)
Al Kiba reactor

Facility is said to be located in northwestern Syria, not far from the Turkish border.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

According to a member of the Syrian opposition, Bashar Assad’s regime is building a nuclear reactor in northwestern Syria with assistance from Iran and North Korea.

In an interview with the Saudi newspaper Okaz picked up by the Jerusalem Post, former Syrian parliamentarian Mohammad Barmo said the reactor is being developed in the Al-Ghab Plains, not far from the Turkish border. Barmo stressed that Iran is continuing to advance its own nuclear program and urged the West to take a hard line on Tehran.

He also warned that if Iran is able to develop a nuclear weapon, other Arab states would “have the right to possess [nuclear] weapons within the framework of strategic deterrence and the preservation of Arab national security.”

The Saudi report was published on Monday amid stalled nuclear negotiations in Vienna between the U.S. and Iran.

Israel destroyed Syria’s first nuclear reactor in 2007. The Al Kibar reactor was located in Syria’s western Deir ez-Zor province. Ten North Korean technicians were reportedly killed in the attack. Syria denied Al Kibar was a nuclear facility, but inspectors from the International Atomic Agency later found traces of uranium and graphite and concluded it was indeed an undeclared atomic site.

The Deir ez-Zor province, including the area where the reactor had been, was overrun by Islamic State in 2014. Israel acknowledged carrying out the air strike in 2018.

Over the last several years, reports have periodically surfaced alleging that Syria was building a nuclear facility in Al-Qusayr, in western Syria.

Israeli policy to prevent enemies from acquiring nuclear weapons is known as the Begin doctrine, articulated by then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1981 to justify the attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981.

In a press conference two days after the Iraqi raid, Begin said, “We chose this moment: now, not later, because later may be too late, perhaps forever. And if we stood by idly, two, three years, at the most four years, and Saddam Hussein would have produced his three, four, five bombs. … Then, this country and this people would have been lost, after the Holocaust. Another Holocaust would have happened in the history of the Jewish people. Never again, never again! Tell so your friends, tell anyone you meet, we shall defend our people with all the means at our disposal. We shall not allow any enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction turned against us.”

In a later interview on American TV, Begin stressed, “This attack will be a precedent for every future government in Israel. … Every future Israeli prime minister will act, in similar circumstances, in the same way.”

Israel is the only country known to have launched military strikes on nuclear facilities. The hits on both sites took place before they became operational to avoid the release of radiation.

Although international opinion was against Israel for the Al Kibar and Osirak strikes, Western officials have since acknowledged that the strikes were correct.

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