Although American and Israeli intelligence agencies have expressed concern that Syria has sought to obtain nuclear weapons, most analyses of their current atomic infrastructure indicate there is no way the country could domestically develop one.
Experts have described the Syrian nuclear program as "elemental" and not capable of developing the sophisticated technologies needed to create a weapon.
Its only reactor is a small 30 kilowatt research facility built with the help of the Chinese in the 1980s.
"That facility went critical in 1996 and become fully operational in 1998. The [reactor] gives Syria the capability to produce neutrons for nuclear analysis, isotopes for industrial applications, and radioisotopes for training purposes, but is unsuitable for weapons production," the Nuclear Threat Initiative reports on its Web site.
The Syrian government signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1969, hoping the move would increase international help and assistance to develop a civilian nuclear program.
The small reactor at Der Al-Hadjar Nuclear Research Center near Damascus is already under scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Additionally, Syria has entered into an agreement with Russia to develop a light water reactor for civilian electricity development that would also fall under IAEA safeguards.
But some Western nations have expressed concerns that Syria may seek to purchase a nuclear weapon from the black market.
In the late 1980s and early '90s, Syrian officials publicly said they would seek military and atomic parity with Israel, a country that has developed at least 100 nuclear weapons, according to Israeli nuclear technician and whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. But analysts generally agree that country has not been able to pursue such a policy.
When Pakistani nuclear chief A.Q. Khan's network of proliferation was uncovered, American officials said they worried that Syria may have been working with the group to obtain technology or weapons.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said his agency has found no link between the two, but an unclassified CIA report to Congress in mid-2003 cautioned that, "broader access to foreign expertise provides opportunities to expand its indigenous capabilities and we are looking at Syrian nuclear intentions with growing concern."