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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08UNVIEVIENNA264 2008-05-08 15:32:00 SECRET UNVIE
Cable title:  

IAEA/SYRIA: THE CASE OF THE MISSING REACTOR

Tags:   IAEA AROC ENRG KNNP MNUC TRGY SY IS 
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DE RUEHUNV #0264/01 1291532
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 081532Z MAY 08
FM USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7892
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0699
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0631
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 0056
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0944
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 0693
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0791
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0236
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0199
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0544
					  S E C R E T UNVIE VIENNA 000264 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2018
TAGS: IAEA AROC ENRG KNNP MNUC TRGY SY IS
SUBJECT: IAEA/SYRIA: THE CASE OF THE MISSING REACTOR

Classified By: CDA, GEOFFREY R. PYATT FOR REASONS 1.4 (h)

Summary, Guidance Request and Recommendation
--------------------------------------------



1. (S) The Syria Al-Kibar nuclear-reactor storm passed
quickly over Vienna the week of April 21 when the USG made
public information about the reactor and the Israeli attack,
and briefed the IAEA Secretariat on our information. Syria
immediately circulated a letter to Arab Group members denying
there was a nuclear reactor and reminding them of U.S.
intelligence failures in Iraq. In a press release, DG
ElBaradei expressed his unhappiness about both the Israeli
attack and the delay in informing the Secretariat. However,
he took the allegations on Syria seriously, cited a potential
safeguards violation, and promised an investigation. The
press quickly lost interest in a story they had initially
reported last September and like-minded Vienna missions are
now wondering what action, if any, the Board should take.



2. (S) The next Board of Governor's meeting will be held in
Vienna June 2-6. Even if the Secretariat does not formally
add Syria to the meeting agenda, we expect the DG to address
the issue and Board members to comment under "Any Other
Business." While the U.S. could place Syria on the agenda
based on our own publicly released information, such a move
would be extremely controversial given Syria's denials to the
Arab Group and the neuralgia occasioned by the Israeli
attack. Absent a strong report from the DG, it is unlikely
that we would achieve an acceptable Board decision either
condemning Syria or demanding an investigation, particularly
if the DG has already informed the Board that the Secretariat
is investigating. Furthermore, our principal focus for the
June Board will be Iran's ongoing safeguards violations and
current proliferation threat. There is a potential tradeoff
between aggressively pursuing the Syrian case and building
Board consensus for a resolution on Iran in the June Board.



3. (S) Therefore, Mission recommends that we let the
Secretariat's inspection play out, at least in the short
term. We are confident that Safeguards DDG Heinonen's
inspectors will do what they can to get to the bottom of
Syria's nuclear program, and we will help them, even if our
confidence in the DG's handling of Syrian non-compliance is
less absolute. When inspectors reach a point at which they
determine there has been a safeguards failure and/or raise
major unanswered questions about Syria's nuclear activities,
the Board will be informed and can act. Depending on the
level of Syrian cooperation, this could take some time. In
the meantime, we recommend that the U.S. provide a more
detailed briefing to Board members in Vienna prior to the
June Board, and that we make a strong national statement on
Syria for the record under "Any Other Business" in the June
Board meeting. End Summary, Guidance Request, and
Recommendation.

State of Play in Vienna


--------------------------





4. (S) After a flurry of excitement following the April 23
press stories confirming the existence of the Al-Kibar
reactor and the Israeli attack, and the subsequent release of
the video, the issue has quieted down in Vienna. The Arabs
did not make any of the expected protestations following the
April 23 revelations principally because, we were told, Syria
immediately circulated a letter to them denying there was a
nuclear reactor and reminding them of U.S. intelligence
failures in Iraq. We have also heard, unsurprisingly, that
the Arab Group has not discussed the Syrian issue.



5. (S) The DG issued a press release April 25 (e-mailed to
Washington offices) noting the Secretariat had received the
information we provided and that it will investigate its
veracity. (Note: Mission is in contact DDG Heinonen and
stands ready to assist on any IAEA investigations in Syria.
We are encouraged by the steps the Secretariat has taken to
date, which demonstrate that it is taking the matter
seriously. Heinonen advised Acting U/S Rood on May 6
(reported septel) that he hoped to have something to report
to the June Board, contingent on Syrian cooperation. End
note.) The DG's April 25 press release made clear that Syria
has an obligation to report the planning and construction of
any nuclear facility. ElBaradei also took the opportunity to
deplore the delay in providing the information and to point
out that Israel's attack undermined the IAEA's verification
efforts.



6. (S) Like-minded counterparts in Vienna wonder about the
timing of the release of the information. Mission has
provided all the public information available. For our
closest allies, we have also provided much of the background
information available to the press. We have furthermore
pointed to the IAEA investigation, explaining that this is
now a matter for the Secretariat to investigate and report to
the Board in due course.



7. (S) To keep Syria on the front burner, we may want to
consider a U.S. briefing to Board members, similar to what
was provided in capitals. Many of the Vienna Missions,
including Arab states, lack a clear understanding of the
Syrian case or have not been briefed by capitals. A
Secretariat technical briefing would be optimal, but it may
take some time before the Safeguards Department is prepared
to present its conclusions on the Syrian information. In the
meantime, Mission will continue to draw from public domain
information to explain the facts to Vienna missions.

Israel's Point of View


--------------------------





8. (S) Unlike Iran, Syria does not appear to pose an urgent
proliferation problem. In effect, Israel has solved the
proliferation problem for the international community.
Israeli Ambassador Michaeli shared his personal assessment
with Ambassador Schulte on May 2 that unless there was
something he was not aware of, the matter could now be left
to the Secretariat as "there was no horse to kill." He
believed the Secretariat should conduct any technical
briefing since there was "no benefit to us doing it."
Michaeli further explained that Israel handled Syria in the
way that it did because of the DG's unsatisfactory handling
of Iran's nuclear program. He also noted that Israel had not
breached any legal or safety obligations under the Convention
on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, as some may
allege, because no nuclear material had been introduced in
the Syrian reactor.

A Safeguards Violation


--------------------------





9. (S) Information about a clear safeguards violation
(failure to provide early design information about a nuclear
facility) is now in the public domain and in the hands of the
safeguards inspectors. The DG has said as much, pending
verification, in his press release. Beyond the
design-information violation, the public information points
to the possibility of unsafeguarded nuclear material. Since
a safeguards investigation is already underway, the Board
does not need to call for one. Per the IAEA Statute (12C),
the Board can only make a finding of non-compliance based on
a report from the DG. The DG will, therefore, report to the
Board on the basis of the safeguards investigation at some
juncture. At the very least, for the June Board, he is
likely to note in his opening remarks the receipt of
information that has prompted the investigation. If Syria
stonewalls in the next few weeks, the DG may note that as
well. If Syria does not cooperate with the Secretariat in
due course, the DG may demand a special inspection (although
the Secretariat has historically been allergic to invoking
its special inspection authority); if Syria refuses, the DG
may bring that refusal to the Board. The Board could call on
Syria to cooperate and resolve outstanding issues, but it
would do so only based on a DG report.

June Board Deliberations on Syria


--------------------------





10. (S) The June 2-6 Board of Governor's meeting has a heavy
agenda. The June meeting traditionally focuses on the annual
Safeguards Implementation Report (SIR) which describes in
general the Secretariat's safeguards conclusions for Calendar
year 2008. This report is a comprehensive evaluation of the
safeguards system and contains the safeguards "conclusions"
about declared nuclear material remaining in peaceful use for
all countries with safeguards agreements. The 2007 report
only singled out Iran as a potential problem. We have been
told that the report will not mention Syria by name. The SIR
agenda sub-item is an opportunity for Member States to
comment on the safeguards system in general.



11. (S) Iran also is a sub-item under the verification
agenda item. Apart from consideration of the DG's latest
report required by the UNSC, Mission is discussing the
possibility of a long-overdue Iran resolution with
like-minded and P5 1 counterparts. The June meeting could
also debate major US policy initiatives, including Reliable
Access to Nuclear Fuel, and the India Safeguards Agreement,
although these are not yet on the agenda and may not be ready
for decision at that time. In the mix, Syria will definitely
be discussed, but it is unlikely that the Board will be in a
position to make any decisions.



12. (S) If Syria were to be discussed under a specific
agenda item, it would have to be placed as another sub-item
under the verification item, along with the SIR, DPRK and
Iran. In accordance with the Rules of Procedure for the
Board of Governors, an item may be added to the agenda at the
request of the Director General or by any Member of the
Agency. In practice, however, the Board would look to and
expect the Director General to request an agenda item on
Syria. There is no recent precedent of a Member State having
placed such a Safeguards item on the agenda. Some of our EU
counterparts have informally discussed the idea of a Syria
agenda item, and Australia has expressed particular
irritation with the DG's press statement on Syria, but it is
unlikely that any of them would step forward to propose a
formal agenda item. UK and French Mission counterparts are
inclined to leave Syria to "Any Other Business." An official
in the office of Policy-Making Organs advised that there are
no plans for the Direct
or General to add Syria to the agenda, "for the time being."



13. (S) Absent a separate agenda item, the best options for
coordinating statements on Syria would be under either the
existing SIR item, or under the final "Any Other Business"
discussion. While the latter is the traditional place for
Member States to comment on the issues in the DG's opening
statement which are not on the agenda, the SIR would be a
possible place to focus on the Syria's safeguards failures,
in the context of the Safeguards system. (In the Iran case,
several Board members and the EU made statements under "Any
Other Business" following the DG's remarks in the March 2003
Board.) Either way, we and others would certainly want to
support a robust investigation. Highlighting the continuing
problem of undeclared nuclear facilities, we would also want
to call for universalization of the additional protocol.
Mission recommends approaching like-minded counterparts to
coordinate such a discussion on Syria.

Potential Pitfalls: Another Osirak?


--------------------------





14. (S) As the DG's press statement demonstrates, any
discussion of Syria will risk some blowback against Israel
and the United States. The DG's statement views Israel's
unilateral use of force "as undermining the due process of
verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation
regime." In a preview of what we will hear at the Board,
during a P5 1 discussion with Acting U/S Rood May 6 Russian
Ambassador Zmeyevsky refused to admit there was a reactor.
"If we are going to discuss this issue," he added, "we have
other dimensions to address since Israel violated
international law both by bombing a sovereign state and by
bombing a nuclear facility under the terms of the Convention
on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. He refused
to agree with U/S Rood's point that Syria is the culprit as
the result of its noncompliance. Also the Chair of the Arab
group in Vienna, Algerian Ambassador Feroukhi, cautioned
Ambassador Schulte on May 2 about Arab sensitivities on the
U.S. singling out Syria giv
en the "double standard" with Israel.



15. (S) Although Syria's continued denials that the facility
in question was a nuclear reactor make it difficult to
condemn Israel, Arab countries and others will seek to
denounce Israel's unilateral actions and draw inevitable
parallels to the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Osirak reactor
in Iraq. Israeli Ambassador Michali also believes that
Syrian denials would not stop Arab states from condemning
Israel. Michaeli told Ambassador Schulte May 2 that Israel
will be prepared to respond to any such comments on the part
of Board members or the DG. If the Board eventually
considers a resolution on Syrian non-compliance, the Arab
group would likely insist on language denouncing Israel's
unilateral action and the failure to provide the information
to the IAEA sooner.



16. (S) Clearly, the Syrian and Iraqi cases are not
commensurate. Osirak was a declared IAEA-safeguarded
reactor, destruction of which prompted the Board's immediate
condemnation. Times have also changed. Suspicions about
Iraq's nuclear program were ultimately proven true a decade
later after the Gulf War, and other cases of undeclared
nuclear facilities have since surfaced in South Africa, Iran,
Libya and the DPRK. The Additional Protocol, which Syria has
not signed, is now available to deter undeclared facilities.



17. (S) The United States will not be spared in any Board
discussion of the Syrian case. The DG's statement deplores
the fact that the information was not provided to the Agency
in a timely matter so that it may fulfill its NPT
responsibilities. We can expect more of the same from the DG
in any remarks to the Board and those of NAM and Arab group
members. While the U.S. can argue that the information was
not ours to disclose, doing so further exposes Israel to
criticism. Citing U.S. concerns at the time about a
disclosure prompting a Syrian counterattack, may help dampen
some criticism. However, Arab states will continue to argue
that Israel's "unprovoked" aggression, and by extension, U.S.
"complicity", violated the UN Charter.



18. (S) In sum, we believe based on our extensive
discussions with the IAEA Secretariat that the agency has
taken our information seriously and recognized the challenge
to the safeguards system that Syria represents. Given this,
and of the likelihood of a trade off with other objectives
for the June BOG, we advise remaining in the background,
rather than pushing for a Syrian agenda item and resolution
at this stage.
PYATT