A former Syrian member of parliament and current member of the Syrian opposition has claimed that Iran and North Korea are helping the Syrian regime to develop a nuclear reactor, according to the Saudi newspaper Okaz.
Mohammad Barmo, who is part of the Syrian opposition in the north of the country, reportedly said that the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad is working on a project to construct a nuclear reactor in the Al-Ghab plain in north-west Syria, with assistance from its allies Iran and North Korea.
Barmo's claim is the latest out of numerous others in previous years which also alleged that Tehran and Pyongyang are attempting to help Damascus develop nuclear capabilities.
In 2018, the London-based Arabic language news site, Al-Quds Al-Arabi cited another source in the Syrian opposition as saying that the Syrian government was building a reactor near Al-Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border. Uranium rods were reportedly transferred to an underground facility in the area.
Three years earlier, the German newspaper Der Spiegel also reported that "Western intelligence agencies" had discovered that the Syrian regime was storing 8,000 fuel rods in a secret underground facility which connects with the nearby Zaita Lake, through a deep well. According to that report, such a practice was not necessary for a general weapons cache, but perfectly suited the requirements for a nuclear facility.
Those reports stipulated that the facility was likely being used as the site and method to salvage the nuclear weapons programme which was being worked on at the Al-Kibar reactor in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. That reactor, which was built by the North Koreans, was destroyed by a strike in the Israeli operation to end the programme in 2007.
Going back even earlier to 2013, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) stated in a report that "Syria is believed to be actively hiding assets associated with [its] past undeclared nuclear reactor effort," referencing a large stock of natural uranium metal.
Another ISIS report in 2018 added that the facility reported to be in Al-Qusayr lacked any security fencing, which was similar to the case with the destroyed Al-Kibar nuclear reactor.
Barmo's claim that the Syrian regime is developing a nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea and Iran comes amid the ongoing and revamped talks regarding the salvaging of the Iranian nuclear deal in the Austrian capital, Vienna.
If Damascus, Pyongyang and Tehran are, indeed, constructing the reactor and working together on a revived Syrian nuclear programme, there could emerge new speculation on what step Israel could potentially take to again attempt to eliminate the chance for Assad's nuclear capabilities, especially in an effort to prevent all three countries possessing such weapons.