The Uncertain Fate of Syria’s Chemical Weapons

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Four Syrian-bound Iranian trucks carrying raw materials needed to make chemical weapons were recently seized by Turkish authorities as they tried to enter into Syria from southern Turkey. The contents in the trucks reportedly included cylindrical tanks, heat-resistant materials and 66 tons of sodium sulfate.

While the Iranian government denied that the trucks in question were carrying chemical weapon materials, it should be noted that in 2011 Turkish authorities had intercepted two previous arms shipment from Iran to Syria. One of those shipments was an Iranian plane carrying automatic rifles, rocket launchers and mortars.

However, the finding of chemical weapons material in the Iranian trucks — which comes as the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad edges closer to complete collapse — has renewed fresh concerns over the future security and control of Syria’s vast stockpile of chemical weapons.

Similar fears were raised during the collapse of the Libyan regime of Muammar Gadhafi. In that case, the United States and its NATO allies worked with Libyan rebel forces to monitor Libya’s known chemical-weapon facilities and prevent Gadhafi’s forces from seeking to use or divert chemical-warfare materials.

However, while Western efforts to secure Gadhafi’s chemical weapons and transfer their control over to Libya’s transitional governing authority have gone relatively well, that may not be the case with Syria if the Assad regime falls.

According to Leonard Spector of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, there is “a huge difference” between the Syrian and Libyan chemical-weapons programs, citing Syria’s program as considerably larger, more sophisticated and equipped with both production and delivery capabilities.

In fact, even though it has refused to become a member of the UN’s Chemical Weapons Convention and submit to international oversight, Syria is still widely believed to have one of the most extensive, if not the largest, chemical weapon arsenals in the world

Moreover, that arsenal, which began its development in the 1970s under then-President Hafez al-Assad as a threat against Israel, has continued to grow unabated under Bashar Assad.

To that end, the Syrian regime is reported to have at least five facilities dedicated to its chemical weapons program at al-Safira, Hama, Homs, and Latakia; two munitions storage sites at Khan Abu Shamat and Furqlus; and a chemical-weapons research laboratory near Damascus.

The Syrian chemical arsenal reportedly comprises hundreds of tons of sarin, mustard gas, and the deadlier VX nerve agent. Those blister and nerve agents have been fitted as chemical warheads on Syria’s long-range Scud-B and Scud-C ballistic missiles. In fact, the Syrian government recently armed its medium-range Scud missiles with 600 one-ton chemical warheads.

In addition to its ballistic missile component, the Syrian government reportedly also has tens of tons of sarin agent and mustard gas stockpiled in conventional artillery shells, rockets and bombs.

So now, besieged by mounting threats to his regime’s survival and armed with that lethal weaponry, questions arise as to whether Assad will use his chemical weapons against Syrian protesters and army defectors; against a possible armed international intervention; or divert them to terrorist groups in the region.

Launching chemical attacks against Syrian civilians would certainly engender little surprise, given Assad’s already bloody crackdown on Syrian protesters and the fact his father, Hafez al-Assad, reportedly used cyanide gas in his repression of the 1982 Syrian uprising in Hama.

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  • Wim

    Is this a joke? Do you want people to believe that sodium sulfate is a chemical weapon?

    • intrcptr2

      No, just really good research. Combined apparently with not so good reading skills; he didn't say Na2SO4 is a weapon, but rather an ingredient. For which, we go to Google, and find this…

      Blister agent, tear gas, and explosive; one-stop shopping it seems.

  • Bert

    With the U.S. abdicating its responsibility and leaving Israel mostly on its own the danger continues to escalate. The option for Israel to defend itself with conventional weapons is getting less and less. This could force Israel to consider nuclear weapons. America already used them in WWII and Russia announced that they might use them pre-emptively if they perceived a threat – even if not existential. Israel should cite the treachery of the nations in announcing that they will not be intimidated or deterred from using any means to protect their people. And NO country in the world has the moral right to dictate how Israel can defend itself.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      You say rightly Bert and Israel is being maligned by the UN and the Obama
      administration and almost every where one looks. However most all here
      that follow and David Horowitz seem to have a
      clear understanding of the unique and right standing Israel has and the
      unique and absolute right Israel has to Jerusalem for the Jew and Christian
      alike. Islam and Leftists have no standing in the future of Israel and wish only
      harm to that which is established by the Everlasting power of the Almighty
      to the heirs of Abraham…………………………………………William

  • scotsirish

    I do remember those pictures of trucks hauling……..into Syria after the attack on Sadam.
    Syria should be loaded to the hilt by now.
    Oh, no need to worry. We have such a fine protector of free world in the WH.
    It's one of those "Miss Me Now" former Kodak moments.

  • kkkk

    come on, tis a known fact that the iranian terrorist regime is going nuclear with the intention of attacking israel and the West. they have said so repeatedly. they have refused our every act of kidnness and stuipd "dialogue." they are utterly usless.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Should the people of Europe and America along with Israel be releived that
    after the fall of Sadam, Mohamar and Assad all of the purloined weapons of
    mass destruction ultimately wind up in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood?
    Oh happy Day, is this out new song, I kind of doubt it, not to be a pessimist
    but really, what a mess and how do we unscramble the egg, for life to
    survive Islam just how much damage must be done and what agency will
    the forces of Good be protected and promoted in. Good and Evil are dividing
    mankind and everyone must choose, I and my house have, as Joshua stated
    "as for me and my house we will serve the Lord", seems reasonable and the
    safest bet on the upcoming……………………………………William

  • jaja

    This is crap, according to Google you can there are more than 150,000 places you can buy sodium sulfate online:

    Good Research my ***