Date: 25/09/2016
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Syria’s Stockpile of Unconventional Weapons is a Threat to Israel and America

While the focus of the media is on the continuing turmoil verging on Civil War in Syria with daily casualty reports, little has been discussed about Syria’s vast arsenal of unconventional weapons falling into the wrong hands. That is until an article appeared today in the new Times of Israel by Lenny Ben-David, “Syria’s arsenal of unconventional weapons must be destroyed”.

Ben-David, a former Israeli diplomat in Washington, noted the concerns about Syria’s unconventional warfare capabilities learned from his service in the IDF during the Scud threat from Iraq under the late Saddam Hussein:

An Iraqi attack was not the main threat we learned about in basic training. Instead, Syria’s unconventional weapons were the doomsday weapons every new Israeli soldier was warned about. A very ominous percent of Syrian artillery shells, bombs, and missile warheads were armed with Sarin, mustard gas, or VX, we were told.

Ben-David discusses his personal dealings with firms a decade ago involved with the destruction in Libya of the late Gaddafi’s unconventional weapons and contrasts that with Syria’s Assad:

In 2003, Libya’s Dictator Muammar Gaddafi renounced the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and invited western nations to destroy his country’s stockpiles. Long-range missiles were destroyed, and chemical and nuclear programs were dismantled. It still took several years before Qaddafi finally shipped his highly enriched uranium out of his country for destruction.

But despite Qaddafi’s shedding of WMD, mustard gas stocks were reportedly found after the tyrant’s fall. And his armories were ransacked, resulting in MANPADS being smuggled into Gaza in recent months.

What motivated Qaddafi to destroy his WMD? Some analysts believe that he came to the prudent decision when he saw the crushing of Saddam Hussein after Western countries (only) suspected him of developing WMD.

In Syria, however, no such flash of temporary sanity is likely to dawn on President Bashar Assad. He is fighting for his survival, and those weapons are his ace in the hole. His “Samson complex” –- “if you take me out, I’ll take you all down with me.”

Public reports claim that Syria has hundreds of long-range Scud B, C and D (the North Korean No-Dong) missiles, and dozens of launchers. Some of the missiles are equipped with cluster-bomb warheads suitable for dispersion of chemical weapons. The reports list the bases where the missiles are stored as well as those bases where chemical and biological weaponization is carried out. Indeed, some of the chemical warfare activity is done in cooperation with Iran, which provides training and the equipment.

Persistent reports over the last decade suggest that [the late] Saddam Hussein smuggled elements of his WMD programs to Syria.

We had written as early as December 2007 on Syria’s vast bio-warfare establishment and its threat to Israel and the West if these unconventional weapons fell into terrorist hands, especially Hezbollah and Hamas –see “Syria's Bio-Warfare Threat: an interview with Dr. Jill Dekker”.  In August 2011, we also probed the Syrian capability to deliver unconventional weapons in our discussion of “The Iranian Missile Threat.”

Last year in an exchange of email on this topic, Prof. Barry Rubin called the 2007 NER Syrian bio-warfare expose, “breathtaking”.

We noted at the time in our interview with Dr. Jill Dekker the threat to Israel and even here in the US if Syria’s unconventional weaponry fell into terrorist hands:

Dr. Dekker’s answers give a foreboding picture of how large and refined the Syrian bio-warfare programs are and how little Western Intelligence knows about how the programs were developed.  The potential exists for a significant WMD threat in the Middle East and the West, especially, against America.  Syria is a proxy ally of Iran, North Korea (DPRK) and terror groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Thus, the supply of bio-weapons and delivery platforms that could results in mass casualties makes it a real and present danger.

Note this exchange with Dr. Dekker on the incorporation of Syria’s advanced bio-warfare capabilities into its defense system:

Gordon: What have your investigations revealed about the level of commitment and investment in Bio-warfare programs by the Syrian military establishment?

Dekker:  Contrary to how the US State Department and other agencies tend to downplay the sophistication of the Syrian biological and nuclear programs, they are very advanced. Syria has always had the most advanced chemical weapons program in the Middle East.  The US and other western agencies have in a sense been distracted by this, but their biological programs and the “concept of use” are robust. Syria’s biological weapons capability today is closely tied to the former and current Soviet and Russian programs respectively, the DPRK, Iran and the former Iraq regime. A major concern is their strategic concept of use - which has gone from one of ‘special weapons’ to incorporation into their ‘conventional arsenal.’

        [. . .]

Syrians cannot reach parity with US and Israeli conventional weapons. However, they view their bio-chemical arsenal as part of a normal weapons program.  This is a huge shift in thinking by the Syrian military.  It means they condone the use of biological pathogens as 'offensive' weapons. NATO and the United States should be very concerned about that re-designation.

Then there is this about the threat to the IDF:

Gordon: How much of a threat is the Syrian Bio-warfare capability to Israel and US forces in the Middle East, e.g. Iraq?

Dekker:  Syria poses an immediate and imminent threat to the United States and Israel. The most likely use of their biological weapons arsenal against Israel would be to reduce IDF fighting forces prior to an attack on the Golan. It’s conceivable they could incapacitate the IDF for a few days even with non-lethal pathogens or repetitively weaken civilians in Lebanon, where the water supplies are unprotected. This could be an optimum use of their bio-arsenal. That might not be as catastrophic as some fear, but it would be very effective. Obviously, there are more serious scenarios one can imagine in terms of deniability, if they have produced vaccines to protect their military and maybe their civilians against more lethal strains of virus such as smallpox.

And this comment about the relative lack of US understanding about Syria’s bio-warfare capabilities:

Gordon: How much does the US Bio-warfare establishment and intelligence community know about the Syrian Bio-warfare threat?

Dekker:  It is similar to the US negligent underestimation and denial that the Soviets had a massive biological weapons program.  The US Intelligence Community negligently underestimates and denies the sophistication of the Syrian biological weapons programs which is very unfortunate. I think it has been very difficult for the US Intelligence Community to procure knowledgeable sources due to internal institutional problems. Former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton has tried since 2001 to warn the US about the threat the Syrian biological weapons programs poses. His warnings have fallen on deaf ears. I hope Israel is helping the United States because it would appear the US is really not up to this challenge.

Ben-David’s concerns reflect those of Dr. Dekker from our 2007 interview.  The issue is what Israel can do about destroying these unconventional warfare caches in Syria?  This is especially concerning given the question of whether the Assad regime can survive via bloody repression of its people. Even more sinister elements like the Muslim Brotherhood leaders of the Syrian National Council could control the country should Assad be toppled.  Perhaps this discussion may be part of the agenda when PM Netanyahu meets with President Obama in early March during the upcoming AIPAC Washington Policy conference.

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