Has Syria’s Chemical Weapons Arsenal Truly Been Dismantled? – Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
(from dailyalert.org, Jun. 30, 2014)
The Syrian regime is fully aware of the critical role of chemical weapons (CW) for the outcome of the civil war. Assad has no moral qualms about using CW, and his Russian and Iranian allies would not truly discourage him from doing so, particularly if he is on the verge of losing the war.
Ostensibly, Assad has met the Syrian undertaking of chemical disarmament, but in reality, the remaining, seemingly marginal, issues are of great concern and have dangerous potential:
- In September 2013, Syria reported 23 sites which held a combined 41 facilities containing “1,300 tons of chemical precursors and agents, plus 1,230 unfilled munitions.” Currently, no further investigations have been held in Syria to ascertain that no additional sites and/or additional quantities existed and/or were added.
- It is not clear whether since September 2013 production of CW was entirely stopped throughout Syria. Additionally, reports by the Syrian opposition claiming hidden CW (mainly VX agent-loaded) in the area of Hama cannot be ignored. The opposition’s claim that at least 20% of the Syrian CW arsenal was not declared might be true.
- The employment of toxic chemicals by the Syrian regime continued during the first half of 2014. The chemical attacks mainly included chlorine, ammonia, and possibly additional toxic chemicals, such as pesticides. The typical delivery mode has been dropping toxic barrel-bombs from helicopters. Airborne chlorine-releasing canisters have been used as well.
- Although prohibited by the CW and BW (biological weapons) conventions, no toxic materials of biological origin, namely toxins, were declared by Syria. However, such agents are probably present in the Syrian arsenal. Besides, it is highly likely that Syria also continues to maintain certain pathogens as deployable biological warfare agents.
- The security and safety within the remaining Syrian CW facilities are doubtful. There is a tangible danger that the rebels will seize undeclared depots of Syrian CW.
- For now, the job done by the inspectors is notable, but is far from complete.The writer, a top Israeli expert on chemical and biological warfare, is a former senior IDF intelligence analyst.