The Syria Briefing Transcript

Arms Control Wonk just posted the full transcript from the Syria-N. Korea intel briefing to “senior U.S. officials.” This is the key passage explaining what the intelligence community concluded about the site from the available evidence:

We told our President four things: This is a reactor; the North Koreans and the Syrians are cooperating on nuclear activities; the North Koreans and Syrians are cooperating on the construction of this reactor; and this reactor – its purpose – is to create fuel for a nuclear weapons program.

Here’s the breakdown of evidence supporting each conclusion:

. . .[T]he fact that it was a nuclear reactor – absolutely high confidence; the fact of Syrian-Korean nuclear cooperation spanning a decade at an intense level, high confidence. . . The fact that that material was going to be used for a weapons program – we believe that to be true, but because we did not have. . .additional clinical evidence of other activities, we could only give it a low confidence level.

The briefing was made public now to advance three policy goals:

– To pressure the N. Koreans on both acknowledging their proliferation activities, and to account for their plutonium stocks.
– Refocus the international community on the danger posed by the Iranian program.
– Generate international support for isolating Syria.

The passage that follows really jumped out at me, for two reasons. First (in the context of Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks that were widely interpreted to mean she would place Israel under America’s “nuclear umbrella”), for what it says about Israel’s ability to take care of itself. And second, for the very obvious heads up it sends to Tehran:

. . .We did discuss policy options with Israel. Israel considered a Syrian nuclear capability to be an existential threat to the state of Israel. After these discussions, at the end of the day Israel made its own decision to take action. It did so without any green light from us. . . [N]one was asked for, none was given.

According to the subsequent Q&A, though, we did share general intelligence with the Israelis in advance of their strike, but not usable targeting intel. The briefers also confirmed that there’s no real compelling photographic evidence of N. Korean involvement, and that there’s no further documentation of a Syrian weapons design program. On the question of what N. Korea’s motivations for assisting the Syrains were, you gotta love this:

Q: And North Korean intentions? Cash?


So there you have it. Cash it is.

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