Diplomats have focused on Syria’s unwillingness to grant additional visits as stalling an International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into a bombed site which the US claims was a nearly-finished nuclear reactor, but IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei finds the more onerous problem the mysterious lack of commercial satellite images of the site.
ElBaradei says “it is regrettable, and indeed baffling, that imagery for this critical period … was not available.” Exactly why that is the case was not clear, but diplomats reported that two possibilities were being considered, that either Syria had somehow secretly bought every single image available or that the seven nations who had commercial satellites covering the site had all ordered them withdrawn from the area to prevent the images from ever being taken. Syrian nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman said the former theory was “nonsense.”
The IAEA report says the only commercial vendor imagery available was from October 24, 2007, a month and a half after the site was destroyed by an Israeli air strike. Between not being told of the site until months after its destruction and receiving no satellite data of the rubble until after Syria allegedly buried all the incriminating evidence in a giant hole in the ground, it is unsurprising that the IAEA’s report was inconclusive.