Possible Syrian nuke facility identified by satellite


Footage of Masyaf shows missile shaped items; IAEA urges Syria to let inspectors visit reactor that IAF destroyed in 2007.

A compound in western Syria with buildings and hundreds of missile-shaped items has been identified as functionally related to a nuclear reactor Israel destroyed northeast of Damascus in 2007.

Satellite footage of the site in Masyaf was obtained by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security and shows a compound built in a ravine and surrounded by what appears to be a line of trenches.

While there are no security measures visible in the commercial satellite imagery, ISIS said building a facility in a ravine was a common method of providing general protection and isolation.

Several years ago, a military base near Masyaf was mentioned as a possible hiding place for weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein might have sent to Syria before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

ISIS head David Albright, who analyzed the satellite footage, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the site at Masyaf could be a military storage facility. Hundreds of items seen stored in rows out in the open could be missiles or truck beds, he said.

“We have identified one site and learned the approximate locations of three other sites as well,” Albright said…

Related Background: Satellite Photos Support Testimony That Iraqi WMD Went to Syria

(The history books on this issue shouldn’t be written just yet)

Watch the full interview of FCC Commissioner Mike Copps talking to Katty Kay about the state of the US media. Copps calls the current status a ‘pretty serious situation’ and says that American media has a ‘bad case of substance abuse.’

Getting Media Right: A Call to Action, Commissioner Copps (PDF)

U.S. Sees Greater North Korea Nuclear Threat


VIENNA—The Obama administration told the United Nations nuclear watchdog that North Korea likely has built more than one uranium-enrichment facility, significantly raising the proliferation threat posed by the secretive communist state.

U.S. and European officials are pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to better scrutinize Pyongyang’s potential role in sharing its nuclear technologies with third countries. But the U.N. agency’s ability to monitor Pyongyang is limited: North Korea kicked out the IAEA’s inspectors in 2009.

The IAEA already is investigating evidence that North Korea transferred a nearly operational nuclear reactor to Syria, which Israeli jets subsequently destroyed in 2007. U.S. and U.N. officials now worry Pyongyang could begin exporting its advanced centrifuge equipment to its military allies in Iran and Myanmar.

“A uranium enrichment capability in [North Korea] could bolster its pursuit of a weapons capability and increases our concerns about prospects for onward proliferation of fissile material and of sensitive technologies,” Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, told the agency’s 35-member board Thursday.

Mr. Davies said the U.S. believes Pyongyang may have already developed uranium-enrichment facilities beyond the one site it showed a visiting American scientist, Siegried Hecker, last month.

These additional facilities would allow North Korea to significantly increase its numbers of atomic weapons, as well as their yield…

Related Links:

Bluffer’s Guide: North Korea strikes!

Heritage: North Korea Pressures U.S. Through Provocations

Yonhap News: N. Korea deploys more multiple-launch rockets

Why I May Filibuster New START

NRO – By Sen. Jim DeMint

Many of us have been concerned that the START Treaty would weaken our national security, and recent revelations of previously undisclosed talks with Russia on missile defense and movement of Russian tactical nuclear warheads only raise more questions that must be answered.

I’ve asked for the full negotiating records, as have been provided to the Senate on previous treaties, but the Obama administration has continually denied that request and promised that missile defense was never part of the negotiations with Russia. But we have now learned that the State Department did in fact meet with Russia to specifically discuss missile defense, after months of denying these discussions ever took place.

With the additional news that Russia moved warheads near the borders of our NATO allies this spring — warheads that are conspicuously not covered by START — it’s time to get some straight answers and for the State Department to provide the full negotiating records. The START Treaty could severely weaken America’s ability to defend our people and our allies against missile attacks from nations like Iran, and we need all of the facts on how this treaty was agreed to.

Additionally, I will use every tool available to oppose an attempt to rush the debate over the START Treaty during this lame-duck session of Congress. The newly elected Republican senators have signed a letter asking our leadership to postpone debate on START until they take office in a few weeks and have ample time to review the details. Americans didn’t vote in November to ram through the Obama administration’s wish list this December.

— Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) is chairman of the Senate Steering Committee and member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Current Ballistic Missile Defense Plans Offer No Confidence in New START

The Heritage Foundation – By James Carafano, Ph.D.

In a recent Wall Street Journal commentary, Vice President Joe Biden argued that the Senate could ratify the New START nuclear deal with Russia with confidence. He urged Senators to ignore concerns that the treaty would place limits on future missile defenses. The Vice President believes current missile defense plans are more than adequate. Biden glossed over the fact that these plans are far from comprehensive. They are inadequate to respond to unpredicted threat advances. Finally, the treaty could well complicate and limit the ability of the U.S. to develop comprehensive missile defenses.

From Defending the West to Modest Protection for Europe

Upon entering office, President Obama slashed the number of land-based interceptors planned to protect the U.S. homeland from North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles by 44 percent. The cuts included scrapping the “third site” ballistic missile defense plan to defend the United States and U.S. allies against the threat of long- and medium-range ballistic missiles from Iran. These installations were to be completed by 2013. In its stead the White House elected to focus on more limited regional missile defense.

In conjunction with a plan approved by NATO at the recent Lisbon summit, Obama has sketched out what the Administration hopes will lead to the development of the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system, the Medium Extended Air Defense System (a U.S., German, and Italian joint program), and the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe.

Obama dubbed his “new” plan for Europe the Phased Adaptive Approach. The four-phase program is intended to be the cornerstone of NATO’s ballistic missile defense initiative. Under Phase I (which the White House hopes to begin in 2011), U.S. Aegis ships with SM-3 interceptors will deploy to the Mediterranean with sea- and forward-based sensors stationed in southern Europe. In Phases II (2015), III (2018), and IV (2020) more interceptors will be deployed, both on Aegis ships and ground platforms.

In his effort to cheerlead for New START, Vice President Biden neglected to mention the limitations of this approach. Even if the Obama plan is implemented on schedule and at cost (questionable assumptions), parts of Europe will remain vulnerable to long-range Iranian threats until 2020. The program also makes no specific, sustained investment to exploit the full range of sea-based and SM-3 technology. Furthermore, land-based SM-3 is a dramatically different capability from the current sea-based SM-3. It has yet to be flown. The Missile Defense Agency is already two years behind the deployment plans.

America the Vulnerable

Envisioning far more robust and comprehensive defenses, the Bush Administration focused on development and expansion of a variety of missile defense programs, such as the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, Airborne Laser, and Multiple Kill Vehicle. These efforts would have served to ensure that the U.S. outpaced potential threats. Bush’s plans to protect the U.S. homeland also included up to 44 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California (in addition to 10 cancelled interceptors in Poland).

Obama reduced long-range interceptors in Alaska and California from 44 to 30. The Administration also cut funding for all future programs. The Missile Defense Agency’s budget was cut by 15 percent.

Fast-Growing Threat

Biden’s trumpeting of Obama’s missile defense also fails to mention that the threat is progressing far faster than anticipated. According to the Department of Defense’s estimate, Iran will have an ICBM capability as early as 2015, fielding a threat long before Obama’s limited defenses will be in place. Meanwhile, North Korea continues to expand both its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capability, revealing just last week a new nuclear facility previously unknown in the West. In addition to developing an ICBM capable of targeting anywhere in the United States, Pyongyang has 600 SCUD short-range ballistic missiles that threaten Japan and 100 No-Dong intermediate-range ballistic missiles that can reach U.S. bases in Okinawa and Guam.

In addition to Iran and North Korea, over 30 other countries all over the world have ballistic missile capability. The trends in ballistic missiles development point to increasing accuracy and range, use of countermeasures, and access to biological, chemical, and nuclear warheads. Many states are increasing their ballistic missile inventories.

Beyond Plan Obama

There are a number of initiatives the U.S. could undertake to make missile defenses much more robust and comprehensive. For example, the navy plans to have roughly 300 SM-3s by 2015. For an additional $170 million, the navy could accelerate production of these interceptors and build a larger inventory.

The White House could also fund development of smaller and lighter kill vehicles for the SM-3 interceptors. This would permit the U.S. to use the more advanced SM-3s to destroy ballistic missiles launched from ships off the U.S. coast, such as missiles armed with electromagnetic pulse warheads.

The long-range land-based force could be expanded, including the use of both two- and three-stage interceptors. The U.S. could invest more aggressively in boost-phase intercept intercontinental ballistics missiles. Finally, space-based interceptors, which would provide the most comprehensive coverage against a range of global threats, could be developed.

Implications for New START

Vice President Biden sees no problem with New START because White House plans envision none of the components of comprehensive missile defense that could outpace current threats or deter the emergence of future ones. However, the treaty could well limit a future Administration more committed to comprehensive defense.

The treaty limits U.S. (and by definition also NATO’s) missile defenses at least in five areas. Most significant is the fact that the preamble of the treaty establishes a link between strategic offensive and defensive arms. Also, Paragraph 3 of Article V prohibits conversion of offensive strategic missile launchers to launchers of defensive interceptors and vice versa. These conversions have been done in the past and might be required as an option for the President in case of future crisis.

Rubber-Stamping Treaty Would Be Wrong

Despite the Vice President’s assurances, the Senate should carefully weigh how New START could hamstring the ability of future Presidents to deal with future threats. In addition to analyzing the treaty, the Senate should demand full access to the treaty negotiating record as well as complete transparency on any side agreements negotiated with Moscow. It is inconceivable that all this material could be provided and analyzed in the time available during the lame duck session. Senators should consider that fact during their deliberations.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Deputy Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, and Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Davis Institute, at The Heritage Foundation. Michaela Bendikova, Research Assistant for Missile Defense and Foreign Policy in the Allison Center, contributed to this report.

Q & A With Anti-Jihadi Hacker The Jester