Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oops, the Syrian nuclear factory that Israel bombed in 2007 was ....a textile plant

 Israeli warplanes in 2007 bombed the above complex in Syria, supposedly a secret nuclear
reactor in order to win plutonium for bombs. Viewed from the air, the facility closely resembled a uranium enrichment plant designed by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the one-time head of an international nuclear smuggling ring. Khan had extensive contacts with Syrian leaders in the 1980s, and some nuclear experts believed he provided them with blueprints for nuclear facilities.
After a long investigation, the International Atomic Energy Agency formally concluded in May of this year that Syria “very likely” was building a secret nuclear reactor,  when Israel destroyed the partially completed project, a conclusion that opened the door to punitive measures, including a possible referral to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.

However, in the beangtiume it has become clear that the Isareli bombs did hit a nuclear project. ´A new report concludes that the facility and its thousands of fast-spinning machines were intended to make not uranium, but cloth — a very ordinary cotton-polyester,´ the Washington Post writes.´It is, and always has been, a textile factory,´ said one of the researchers, Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. On his blog Arms Control Wonk Lewis quotes German journalist Paul-Anton Krüger (of the Süddeutsche Zeitung) who tracked down the chief engineer of the original project in the early 1980s.Krüger: I had been following the posts about Al-Hasakah Spinning Factory with great interest, as the name of the facility and the satellite image had come across my way while I did research on the Syrian nuclear program last May. I was aware about a possible connection to AQ Khan and the planned facility in Libya, but had never gotten to the bottom of the story. After reading an ACW post about Al-Hasakah (AP On Hasaka, November 1, 2011), I browsed through the comments section. One of the readers, “b”, challenged my journalistic ambitions. “B” reiterated that the site is supposed to have had East German spinning machines replaced by newer ones in the early 2000s and added “The Germans should be able to verify that.” Well, I am German, and I decided to do just that, hoping to narrow down the dates when the facility had been built and since when it had been used as a spinning factory. And as it turned out, they were not only spinning cotton there.

Krüger was able to track down the chief engineer who built the factory when working with a firm in Karl-Marx-Stadt in East Germany (now Chemnitz), which had been commissioned by the Syrians. This engineer, Jürgen Grobe, now 62, was able to explain the somewhat odd lay-out of the factory and its storage buildings, that had been taken by the IAEA (and Israel) as designed for the manifacture of  plutonium and the storage of nuclear material. Both Lewis and Krüger conlcude that the factory was designed for the spinning of cotton and polyesters and from the eighties on has never been anything else than a textile plant. (Read their complete story here) . 
Lewis also conlcuded that this not necessarily also exonerates Syria of having nuclear ambitions. But what is clear is that Israel was wrong in bombing this facility. 

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