March 5, 2010
Syria, finding itself waiting in the hallway outside the headmaster's office due to the International Atomic Energy Agency having discovered suspicious traces of uranium at a research facility, has come up with a crafty ruse - blame it on someone else, namely Israel.
According to the IAEA, the uranium would not normally be found at research reactors such as that at the desert site, leading to suspicions that the Arab republic may be attempting to develop a nuclear capability which, were it to be successful, would obviously be cause for much concern in Israel. Responding to these worries, the Israeli Air Force bombed the facility two years ago - Syria originally claimed that the traces were depleted uranium from conventional, non-nuclear Israeli munitions; a claim disputed by the IAEA who say that it is not depleted uranium. However, the Agency's chief Syrian delegate Bassam Al-Sabbag is now claiming that the traces were deliberately dropped by the IAF in an attempt to incriminate his country. OK, so it's perhaps not the best excuse ever given, but desperate times call for desperate measures and one never knows - maybe if they act innocent and smile sweetly, the headmaster will fall for it?
Unfortunately for them, Syria's track record with the IAEA hasn't been entirely spotless - Damascus has been a bit too keen to prevent inspectors from making further visits to a number of sites including the facility where the uranium was found; which, naturally, does look rather suspicious. Having the backing of Iran - which also has a track record that hasn't exactly endeared it to the inspectors - may well also prove to be as much a curse as a blessing, since Syria runs the risk of coming under suspicion due to the company it keeps. Also, there's the small matter of more uranium traces discovered at a different site in 2008.
Despite the nuclear reactors and radioactive elements, does there not seem something a little medieval about Syria's claims? Not only has Israel been accused of a novel, updated version of blood libel just recently (the allegations that the IDF harvested organs in Haiti and elsewhere), it seems they now face of a modernised, high-tech variant of the old well-poisoning accusations too. Which century is this?