Robin Wright at the Washington Post and David Sanger at the New York Times are reporting that CIA Director Michael Hayden and other intelligence officials will brief the House and Senate Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees on the Box-on-the-Eurphrates.

The centerpiece of the briefing is a video [presentation showing two still photographs of] a reactor core inside similar to the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon.

Well, finally, some evidence.

  • David Sanger reports that it contains “what appears to be the construction of a reactor vessel inside the building that Israel later destroyed.”
  • Robin Wright reports that “shows that the Syrian reactor core’s design is the same as that of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, including a virtually identical configuration and number of holes for fuel rods.”

Above are two images of the top of the Yongbyon reactor core (both from the IAEA, the color one via ISIS). I can imagine that a [picture] showing that would cause some consternation. If the Administration makes the Syria video public, we can do a little comparison.

Assuming the provenance, interpretation and timing are all square, I would think the presumption now shifts to “it was a reactor” — which is not to say that hitting it was a sensible foreign policy decision or that the Six Party process should stall.

Martha Raddatz gets credit, in retrospect, for her story saying that Israel had photographs. I was skeptical and some of the details were certainly wrong in retrospect, but the main point seems more solid today.

I confess I am a little surprised. An agent inside with a video camera is a littler more 24 or Alias than typical clandestine operations. I am not sure how or why the Syrians let a video camera into the facility in the first place.

***

There are still tons of unanswered questions, but I suspect folks will ask those in the Congressional briefings:

  • Who took the [pictures], when and why? How did the Israelis get a copy?
  • Where are the fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities? I would be surprised if Syria would be willing to depend on foreign fuel and, even more, on foreign reprocessing services.
  • Why weren’t Administration officials willing to call it a reactor, even off-the-record?

Update: As you can see from the changes to the post (clearly marked, of course), apparently what we have are two still photographs inside the BOE.