ANALYSIS: al-Assad to build another reactor?

Posted: May 11, 2010 by Jonathan Boyko in International, Middle East, Syria
Tags: , , ,

Is al-Assad to build another reactor with Medvedev's help? With Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visiting Damascus, some analysts and officials wonder if Medvedev would discuss arms deals with his Syrian counterpart:

Observers in Washington see the deepening of Moscow-Damascus relations as a failed mark for the Obama-Clinton drive to woo Assad. Some are saying that the Kremlin, for its part, seeks to use Syria as a fig leaf for its deepening crisis with Tehran, following the Russian president’s promise to Barack Obama to back tough sanctions against Iran. This promise was accompanied by Moscow’s secret assurance to hold back from activating Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr – in breach of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s pledge earlier this month to have the reactor up and running by August.


SYRIA’S BASHAR AL-ASSAD would prefer Russians to the Americans any day of the year. Russians are more than willing to sell Syria weapons of grade of sophistication Assad would never get from the United States. He believes he is threatened by Israel and wants to be armed to the teeth to repel any attack. He is not far from the truth, and Israel’s attack on alleged Syrian nuclear reactor-in-construction is evidence to that. It is likely al-Assad plans to begin construction on another reactor and wants the best of protection Russians can offer against likely Israeli airstrike.

The deal is great for Russia as well. More important than the cash Medvedev would earn from the sale, he would gain footing in the region, if he manages to woo Syrians on their side. He likely understands that, in part, he is being played by al-Assad, who uses Obama’s attempts at closure as leverage against Russia. “Do you want to lose Syria as an ally in the region?” Assad asks Medvedev? “Then support me”.

Medvedev would have to give Assad few discounts on the weapon systems. It is quite likely, that the meeting in Damascus might involve some degree of discussion on Russia’s support in Syria’s aim for a new reactor. As Putin’s Russia helped Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to construct a reactor of his own, Assad certainly would want to see Medvedev agreeing to a similar deal.


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