Jeffrey LewisRevisiting Bush’s Decision on Al Kibar

Something about the whole Syria nuclear reactor story has never seemed quite right to me. When anonymous US officials began to hint that the facility struck by Israel was in some way nuclear, I wondered how solid that intelligence was. Why couldn’t they just call the damned thing a reactor?

I noted that “we haven’t heard from the people who … were ‘cautious about fully endorsing Israeli warnings’ or ‘remain unconvinced that a nascent Syrian nuclear program could pose an immediate threat.’ They might have important information to add, were they willing to leak it.”

Now, thanks to Bob Woodward, we have the beginnings of the other side of the story from those who successfully opposed a strike on the rector building — but it just deepens the mystery.

In their memoirs, both George Bush (Decision Points) and Dick Cheney (In My Time) recount the crucial meeting on the question of whether or not to strike the reactor under construction at Al Kibar.

Cheney’s book, with its implicit criticism of everyone else in the room, has reignited that debate, leading Woodward to recount the opposition to a strike in light detail:

But accounts from others in these meetings, a public briefing and Bush’s own memoir present a dramatically different picture of the intelligence on the Syrian reactor.

Cheney does not reveal that then-CIA Director Michael V. Hayden had a team working for months to examine the intelligence on the Syrian reactor. Participants at the meetings say that Hayden presented his findings to Bush, Cheney and the others before Cheney made his arguments for a military strike.

According to a principal participant, Hayden made four points, saying: “That’s a reactor. I have high confidence. That Syria and North Korea have been cooperating for 10 years on a nuclear reactor program, I have high confidence. North Korea built that reactor? I have medium confidence. On it is part of a nuclear weapons program, I have low confidence.”

Hayden emphasized the last sentence to underscore his uncertainty. He later told others that he stuck to the intelligence facts and intentionally shaped his presentation that way to discourage a preemptive strike because the intelligence was weak.

According to the CIA, there was no evidence of plutonium reprocessing capability at the site or nearby in that region of Syria, though a reactor of that type would be capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons. In addition, there was no identifiable means to manufacture uranium fuel.


Two participants in the key National Security Council meeting in June 2007 said that after Cheney, the “lone voice,” made his arguments, Bush rolled his eyes.

At the CIA afterward, the group of specialists who had worked for months on the Syrian reactor issue were pleased they had succeeded in avoiding the overreaching so evident in the Iraq WMD case. So they issued a very limited-circulation memorial coin. One side showed a map of Syria with a star at the site of the former reactor. On the other side the coin said, “No core/No war.”

First, some house-keeping.  Most of the details in Woodward’s account have bee reported elsewhere.  Woodward relies both on Bush’s memoir, as well as the not-for-attribution briefing given to reporters by senior intelligence officials 1 and 2 (“Ace” and “Deuce” were McConnell and Hayden as far as I can tell).  And the detail about the coin stamped “No Core, No War” previously appeared (with slightly different punctuation) in US News and World Report‘s Washington Whispers by Paul Bedard and an Associated Press story by Deb Riechmann. What is new in Woodward’s reporting is the pair of first person accounts of the President rolling his eyes at Cheney.

Second, “no core, no war” needs some explanation.  This is not “If it does not fit, you must acquit.”  Rather, the phrase expresses the two high-level political goals that the intelligence community supported: (1) “No core,” ie do not allow the reactor to become operational and (2) “No war,” ie that efforts to stop the reactor from becoming operational should not lead to a wider conflict in the Middle East.  Hayden explained the coin in the context of the trade-off between better analysis and maintaining secrecy necessary to control escalation, during a talk at Georgetown.

So, the big question: Why did Bush roll his eyes at Cheney?

Syria was building a clandestine nuclear reactor in a manner that was inconsistent with any explanation other than a nuclear weapons program, something all the principals appear to agree on.  For some reason, the inability of the intelligence community to find a reprocessing or a fuel fabrication facility was dispositive for all the other parties other than the Vice-President.

But what if the intelligence community simply didn’t know the location of either site? Bush is extraordinarily clear that he believes Syria intended to use the reactor to produce nuclear weapons. The little video the IC released, which ought to have cleared text, stated that “start of operations could have begun at any time although additional weeks to months of testing were likely.”  If there was a time to strike the reactor, it was before it went hot.  In other words, the decision to wait could have resulted in the operation of the reactor had Israel not destroyed it.

I just don’t understand why the failure to find fuel fabrication or reprocessing facilities was reassuring to anyone.  One of the core reasons for my initial skepticism that the box was a reactor was my conviction than any American president, when presented with unequivocal evidence that a state-sponsor of terrorism was building a covert nuclear reactor, would act decisively to eliminate that reactor before it began operations.  I have always assumed, for example, that no President would allow the Iranian reactor at Arak to come online.  If the standard is actually “no covert reprocessing facilities,” then I am really at a loss. Maybe I’ve been too warped by Quick and Secret Construction of Plutonium Reprocessing Plants: A Way to Nuclear Weapons Proliferation? (General Accounting Office, October 6, 1978).

I can’t help but wonder whether there is some sort of technical detail that the principals are leaving out of the account.  Something like the intelligence community concluding that not only did Syria not have a core for the reactor but that it had no reasonable prospect of acquiring one.  But how could one have confidence in a judgment like that?

Anyway, as I say, I find the whole episode a continuing mystery.  I am genuinely interested in hearing the opinions of others.  And seeing a picture of one of those medals!


  1. Jeffrey (History)

    Here is the relevant passage from Decision Points:

    Iran was not the only nation endangering the freedom agenda by seeking nuclear weapons. In the spring of 2007, I received a highly classified report from a foreign intelligence partner. We pored over photographs of a suspicious, well-hidden building in the eastern desert of Syria.

    The structure bore a striking resemblance to the nuclear facility at Yongbyon, North Korea. We concluded that the structure contained a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. Since North Korea was the only country that had built a reactor of that model in the past thirty-five years, our strong suspicion was that we had just caught Syria red-handed trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability with North Korean help.

    That was certainly the conclusion of Prime Minister Olmert. “George, I’m asking you to bomb the compound,” he said in a phone call shortly after I received the report.

    “Thank you for raising this matter,” I told the prime minister. “Give me some time to look at the intelligence and I’ll give you an answer.”

    I convened the national security team for a series of intense discussions. As a military matter, the bombing mission would be straightforward. The Air Force could destroy the target, no sweat. But bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification would create severe blowback.

    A second option would be a covert raid. We studied the idea seriously, but the CIA and the military concluded that it would be too risky to slip a team into and out of Syria with enough explosives to blow up the facility.

    The third option was to brief our allies on the intelligence, jointly expose the facility, and demand that Syria shutter and dismantle it under the supervision of the IAEA. With the regime’s duplicity exposed, we could use our leverage to press Syria to end its support for terror and meddling in Lebanon and Iraq. If Syria refused to dismantle the facility, we would have a clear public rationale for military action.

    Before I made a decision, I asked CIA Director Mike Hayden to conduct an intelligence assessment.

    He explained that the analysts had high confidence that the plant housed a nuclear reactor. But because they could not confirm the location of the facilities necessary to turn the plutonium into a weapon, they had only low confidence of a Syrian nuclear weapons program.

    Mike’s report clarified my decision. “I cannot justify an attack on a sovereign nation unless my intelligence agencies stand up and say it’s a weapons program,” I said to Olmert. I told him I had decided on the diplomatic option backed by the threat of force. “I believe the strategy protects your interests and your state, and makes it more likely we can achieve our interests as well.”

    The prime minister was disappointed. “This is something that hits at the very serious nerves of this country,” he said. He told me the threat of a nuclear weapons program in Syria was an “existential” issue for Israel, and he worried diplomacy would bog down and fail. “I must be honest and sincere with you. Your strategy is very disturbing to me.” That was the end of the call.

    On September 6, 2007, the facility was destroyed.

    The experience was revealing on multiple fronts. It confirmed Syria’s intention to develop nuclear weapons. It also provided another reminder that intelligence is not an exact science. While I was told that our analysts had only low confidence that the facility was part of a nuclear weapons program, surveillance after the bombing showed Syrian officials meticulously covering up the remains of the building. If the facility was really just an innocent research lab, Syrian President Assad would have been screaming at the Israelis on the floor of the United Nations. That was one judgment I could make with high confidence.

    Prime Minister Olmert’s execution of the strike made up for the confidence I had lost in the Israelis during the Lebanon war. I suggested to Ehud that we let some time go by and then reveal the operation as a way to isolate the Syrian regime. Olmert told me he wanted total secrecy. He wanted to avoid anything that might back Syria into a corner and force Assad to retaliate. This was his operation, and I felt an obligation to respect his wishes. I kept quiet, even though I thought we were missing an opportunity.

    Finally, the bombing demonstrated Israel’s willingness to act alone. Prime Minister Olmert hadn’t asked for a green light, and I hadn’t given one. He had done what he believed was necessary to protect Israel.

  2. Anon (History)

    I am not a lawyer but I have a related legalistic question: if countries can be sanctioned via Chapter 7 of the UN Charter for being a “threat to the peace or a breach of peace or an act of war” for having an alleged nuclear weapons program, can other nations who attack said nations also be sanctioned via Chapter 7 of the UN Charter for being a “threat to the peace or a breach of peace or an act of war” ?

  3. Nick (History)

    No, they can’t be sanctioned.

    As Bolton has mentioned before, under the auspices of Article 51, P5 and their friends can destroy sites that could pose harm to them in the near future. This includes heavy water reactors, enrichment plants, and reporcessing facilities. One may include PWRs as well, since again Bolton opined not too long ago that spent uranium fuel rods could easily be reporcessed into pure PU 239 for bomb making.

  4. bradley laing (History)

    –The fall of K., dictator of Libya, has already led to claims of official secrets coming out. If the Assad government in Syria is overthrown, what would come out about the “Box On the Euphrates”?

  5. Andy (History)

    I’ll have a more substantive comment a bit later when I have some more time, but for now I wonder if you happen to have any relevant passages to quote from Cheney’s book?

  6. Anon (History)

    “The truth that survives is simply the lie that is pleasantest to believe.” ~ H.L.Mencken

  7. kme (History)

    I am not so sure that the secrecy itself is particularly convincing evidence of the reactor being part of a weapons program – after all, ask yourself if you were the President of Syria and did hyopthetically want to build a non-weapons-related nuclear reactor, would you announce it widely or would you try and keep it secret for as long as possible?

    Much more damning is the design of the reactor itself.

  8. blowback (History)

    What is so daming about the alleged design of the alleged reactor. It is the British Magnox design which my government in a fit of benevolence/stupidity released into the public domain many years ago. An obvious choice if you are a poor technically-backward country that wants to establish a successful nuclear programme.

    BTW, is there any evidence that the US passed its or rather Israel’s “intelligence” by some of the people from the UKAEA and the like who were actually involved in building these things originally? Maybe the reason Bush was rolling his eyes was that someone had done so and the word had come back that the intelligence was fake but Bush didn’t want to say so because he didn’t want the scheissesturm that would come his way for being an “existential threat” to Israel.

    • rwendland (History)

      blowback, the “fit of benevolence/stupidity” you refer to was of course Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace. I think the Calder Hall design was declassified for the Atoms for Peace conference, though there had already been considerable description in journals.

  9. krepon (History)

    Good eye, Jeffrey.
    Until more information is revealed, I’m inclined to suspect that President Bush and those around him (with the exception of the Vice President) much preferred that Israel do the deed, and conveyed indirect messages that increased this likelihood.

  10. pkr (History)

    One of the so called functionally related sites, the one referred to as Marj as-Sultan, appears to have been a uranium conversion facility. That points to fuel production…

    With regard to reprocessing the only reference I am aware of is in the last book by Collins/Frantz (“Fallout”, p. 206). They mention that Jacques Baute, sifting through the Tinner files in Switzerland, came across “a set of files that described Syria’s attempted purchase of type of remote manipulator devices for handling radioactive material, almost never used outside a plutonium reprocessing facility”.

  11. Mark Lincoln (History)

    Why do North Korean graphite moderated, gas cooled, magnox, plutonium production reactors require stacks to vent gases and North Korean built graphite moderated, gas cooed, magnox, plutonium, production reactors in Syria not?

  12. Cheryl Rofer (History)

    Hi Jeffrey –

    Of course I have an opinion on this, but it’s a little long for a comment.

    So here’s a link.

    The short version is that I don’t think there’s much to learn in the Bush, Cheney, and Woodward versions.

    • Anon (History)


      There’s any number of bad things that the Syrians could have been doing with the NKs that would not be nuclear weapons-related: missiles, bio, chem, game-boy modifications.

      Even if it was a reactor: how do you go from that to a weapon? Not all things Nuc-cu-ler are weapons, as most people on this blog surely can confirm.

      So their covert behavior and NK connection and elusive answers do not *NUCLEAR WEAPONS*.

      In any case, Reuters is reporting that the Syrians are going to cooperate with the IAEA on this today.

  13. Anon (History)

    What the UNSC says w/r/t Iran seems very important these days and is reported far and wide.

    Here is what this super-important international body said post-Osirak:

    FYI — UN Security Council resolution 487:

    2. *****Calls upon Israel to refrain in the future from any such acts or threats thereof;*****

    3. Further considers that the said attack constitutes a serious threat to the entire IAEA safeguards regime which is the foundation of the non-proliferation Treaty;

    4. Fully recognises the inalienable sovereign right of Iraq, and all other States, especially the developing countries, to establish programmes of technological and nuclear development to develop their economy and industry for peaceful purposes in accordance with their present and future needs and consistent with the internationally accepted objectives of preventing nuclear-weapons proliferation;

    5. ****Calls upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards; ****


    And you wonder why NAM nations are pissed off.

  14. rwendland (History)

    Jeffrey, the absence of reprocessing plant development for a Magnox-type reactor is (I think) more significant than for a heavy water reactor, as at Arak. Spent Magnox-type fuel cannot be stored indefinitely (wet or dry stored[*]), so it would be technically stupid to startup a Magnox-type reactor without assured access to a working reprocessing plant within 5 years. And if you don’t already have experience of reprocessing chemistry, it would be foolish not to get at least a small-scale prototype reprocessing plant in trials before first criticality (or plan to export the spent fuel as per Italy & Japan).

    So the absence of any sign of a reprocessing plant does strongly suggest startup was not imminent (or perhaps it was not a reactor).

    Do you know if there are storage time limits on spent zirconium clad fuel from heavy water reactors? I suspect it can be stored for a long time, similar to LWR fuel, so startup of a HWR does not put you onto a non-stop express train to reprocessing.

    [*] The UK Magnox dry stores at Wylfa worked fairly well, but water penetration did corrode some of the fuel, which created a very difficult fuel extraction problem, and as I recall a priority path to the reprocessing plant. A dry-store would not be easy to hide anyway, as it has significant similarities to a reactor – 2 metre concrete shielding and a large fault tolerant gas cooling system.

  15. Allen Thomson (History)

    krepon said,

    > Until more information is revealed, I’m inclined to suspect that President Bush and those around him (with the exception of the Vice President) much preferred that Israel do the deed, and conveyed indirect messages that increased this likelihood.

    That’s certainly my reading. The available evidence persuades me that the US really did believe, courtesy of Israeli intelligence delivered in the Spring of 2007, that Syria was within months of putting a plutonium production reactor into operation. And, due to the embarrassments of 2003, the US really didn’t want to bomb another Arab/Muslim state on a WMD pretext if it could help it. Israel, which was also apparently convinced of the basic story line, would do the deed if the US couldn’t be persuaded and that was what the US, minus Cheney, went with.

    P.S.: I think Trey was Hadley.

    P.P.S.: Low confidence in a weapons program coupled with high confidence in a plutonium production reactor is obviously nonsensical and points to other considerations at work in the IC (c.f. 2003). If you see a plant producing tank turrets, you can be fairly sure there’s a tank program somewhere, even if you have no other evidence.

    • Andy (History)


      I agree with your take.

      Regarding your PPS, however, the IC was making a distinction between what it deduced or inferred based on its conclusion that the facility was a reactor, and actual evidence indicating a weapons program. On the latter there was little to no evidence, but at the same time the implications of the reactor were clear. Here’s how administration officials put it in the non-for-attribution briefing Jeffrey linked to in his post:

      “SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL 2: No, you need to understand. I’m sorry to dwell on the point. This is very, very important.

      “SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL 1: This is very important.

      “SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL 2: 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. Those are the things we concluded.

      “Now, when you look at the body of evidence of those four sentences and begin to sort out how much of that is based on an overwhelming body of evidence as opposed to a more limited body of evidence and therefore more reliant on assessment, the 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. At the time of the strike, fact of North Korean-Syrian cooperation in the building of that reactor, medium confidence that then got higher because of events, some of which we have alluded to in the briefing, okay. 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, as [Senior Intelligence Official 1] points out, additional clinical evidence of other activities, we could only give it a low confidence level. But you need to – and I think you understand what I’m trying to say. That’s not more or less sure; it’s just that it’s a way of communicating that for which you have a large body of evidence and that for which you may not.”

      Also, there is this tibit from the same briefing discussing the decision of what to do about the reactor:

      “SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We obviously were looking very closely at options, and we had looked at some approaches that involved a mix of diplomacy and the threat of military force with the goal of trying to ensure that the reactor was either dismantled or permanently disabled, and therefore never became operational.

      “We looked at those options. There were, as I mentioned to you, conversations with the Israelis. Israel felt that this reactor posed such an existential threat that a different approach was required. And as a sovereign country, Israel had to make its own evaluation of the threat and the immediacy of the threat, and what actions it should take. And it did so.”

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Yes, my notes suggest that Trey was Hadley. What I cannot remember is who told me that. I think it was a reporter at the briefing.

  16. Anon (History)

    Thank you Dan!

    You will see my quote from UNSCR487 above told Israel not to repeat the Osirak-type attack AND told Israel to place its facilities under IAEA safeguards.

    From a lawyerly perspective, do you think it is appropriate that Iran has Ch. 7 sanctions when there has been no breach of the peace but Israel does not when it has done so at least twice (over nuclear matters that we know of, not including assassinations and cyberattacks)?

    Do cyberattacks count as a breach of the peace or a threat to the peace?

    If Israel attacks Iran physically, do you think there will be a strong case for Ch 7 sanctions on Israel?

    UN Security Council resolution 487:

    2. *****Calls upon Israel to refrain in the future from any such acts or threats thereof;*****

    3. Further considers that the said attack constitutes a serious threat to the entire IAEA safeguards regime which is the foundation of the non-proliferation Treaty;

    5. ****Calls upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards; ****

    • Dan Joyner (History)

      The UNSC is at its essence a political body. It was structured to be that way. The fact that Iran has been sanctioned by the UNSC and Israel has not is, in my opinion, completely a product of the identity of the permanent members of the UNSC, all of whom have veto power over any Council decision. But only one such member really matters on this question – the US. The US has consistently vetoed any UNSC resolution that would condemn or even speak negatively about Israeli actions, with very few exceptions. Its all there in the UNSC record.

  17. Anon (History)

    >Why do North Korean graphite moderated, gas cooled, magnox, plutonium production reactors require stacks to vent gases and North Korean built graphite moderated, gas cooed, magnox, plutonium, production reactors in Syria not?


    Interesting observation. The stack seen on Calder Hall-type Magnox reactors are to exhaust cooling air from between the steel reactor pressure vessel and the concrete shielding.

    This isn’t present on later Magnox designs which use an all concrete pressure vessel. The earlier design has the interesting feature that they neutron activate things in this cooling air and thus emit copious ammounts of Ar-41.

    It’s enough that when these things were operating in the UK, the operators environmental monitoring teams had to make a plan based on wind direction, as you really can’t do useful work in the “argon plume”.

    As an update, I’d think it was pretty simple to engineer, especially if the original operating pressure (~7 bar) is kept.

  18. Andy (History)

    Ok, here’s my take on your questions:

    The eye-rolling. Obviously we can’t read the man’s mind, so anything is just a guess. My guess is that Bush (and everyone else) already knew the VP was going to advocate bombing and already knew that the VP would be alone in his advocacy. I also suspect the VP also knew he’d be alone and so his advocacy was simply to register his dissent to something that had already been decided. “Yes, yes, Dick, we already know you want to bomb Syria and you already know it ain’t gonna happen.”

    Secondly, I don’t share your assumptions about what Presidents will do in the face of an al Kibar or Arak. In this case, I think the President and his advisers knew that Israel had both the capability and will to take the reactor out. Israel, perhaps predictably, came knocking hoping to get the US to do its dirty work. The President thankfully declined and uncertainty in the intelligence became the excuse.

    Additionally, let’s consider what else was going on in the spring/summer of 2007. US policy was completely focused on the “Surge” in Iraq and the President had just taken a big risk by doubling-down there. It doesn’t make sense for him to increase that risk by bombing Syria, especially considering there was a completely viable (and completely superior, in my view) option of diplomacy backed by the threat of force. Not only that, but Syria certainly had the capability to cause more trouble in Iraq and bombing al Kibar could well have caused Syria to take the gloves off and more actively oppose the US there.

    So what are the upsides to the US taking action and bombing the reactor? I don’t really see any.

    On the Arak reactor, absent something else going on, I don’t think a President will bomb it as long as it remains under safeguards.

  19. Malenki Sasha (History)

    I think we are missing the bigger picture here.

    There is no way that the US would be able to get away with bombing Syria and it is absolutely shocking that Cheney ever said it was on the table.

    Keep in mind up until the recent uprising, Syria was an extremely useful ally in the War on Terror and the Iraq war, and never mind that this was coming at the heels of the surge. The last thing the US needs is the very active participation of the Syrian government in supporting Iraq insurgents during one of the most critical times of the war.

  20. Malenki Sasha (History)

    This is an instance of a preventive strike. Preemptive attacks are far easier to identify and legally support as where preventive strikes are murky at best.

    This was an instance of a preventive strike which lacks the legal framework in which to effectively argue. The problem with nuclear weapons is that unlike conventional war, there is far too little time between identifying an imminent attack and annihialation. With a conventional armies intelligence can intercept plans, movements can be observed well in advance as where a leader’s decision and the actual launch of a nuclear weapon can be done within moments of each other. Even if intelligence were to discover the leaders decision it will most likely be too late to react.

    This is the dilemma that international legal framework is unprepared to deal with. By constructing a clandestine nuclear weapons program it is easy for a state to exploit this dilemma. They can simply claim it is for peaceful purposes while obscuring facilities and operations. Keeping stuff secret usually doesn’t result in being bombed. Although it does happen every now and then.

    What is particularly unnerving about al Kibar is that Syria denied being bombed along with the scramble to bury evidence of the facility. While signs of guilt don’t warrant 100% certainty it is obvious they were up to something and that nipping their program in its infancy was the best course of action.

  21. Dan Joyner (History)

    No you are quite right that calls upon language in one resolution has equal legal weight (i.e. pretty much none) to calls upon language in another resolution.

  22. Mark Gubrud (History)

    I’ve previously speculated here that the reason the US didn’t bomb the Syrian reactor is that the US had long known about it and the project had been halted, along with the Iranian nuclear weapon program, possibly in response to a direct American threat. North Korea, hoping for a deal with the US and sensing that the game was over in any case, may have sold out its customer. Or some North Korean may have sold out for asylum and cash.

    This is a pure guess on my part, but I still don’t see any solid facts that don’t fit in this picture. It would explain the absence of a reprocessing plant and the IC’s peculiar “confidence,” as you put it, in “no core, no war.”

    I think what happened in 2007 is that although the Syrians had put the program on ice, they hadn’t dismantled the building, and the Israelis sent a bunch of stuff Bush’s way in another effort to gin up a case for endless war and to take the heat off themselves on Palestine. The CIA was not impressed, and prevailed as per Bush’s account, although he’s leaving out the part that this was nothing new. But it was okay if the Israelis went ahead and bombed the site, mainly for their own political purposes, and to send a message to Syria and Iran on behalf of both Israel and the US.

    I’m puzzled by your statement that you assume “that no President would allow the Iranian reactor at Arak to come online.” The Iranians have made a considerable investment in the heavy water production plant and in the reactor. I was not aware that they were doing anything on that project other than moving forward with it. Assuming Obama is still president when they are ready to activate the reactor, what do you think he will do?

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I would have expected an air strike. I am still surprised that Bush did not authorize one against Al Kibar.

    • kme (History)

      Is a (presumably safeguarded) HWR any more concerning than safeguarded uranium enrichment cascades? (As I understand it, your position is that in the latter case the real worry is hidden non-safeguarded sites – doesn’t the same apply in the former case too, with the added factor that it’s difficult to hide a sizeable reactor?)