While the world is distracted by the "Arab Spring" in Syria, the country has been quietly set up as a bio-terror state that will likely be scapegoated in the upcoming war of bio-terror. Based on recent news and events, Syria will likely be scapegoated in a future false-flag bio-terror attack on the state of Israel.
Date: April 16, 2002
Source: Carnegie Endowment
Abstract: Raging violence between Israelis and Palestinians has raised fears of a wider war in the region. For background on the possible use of weapons of mass destruction in future conflicts, we provide summaries on the chemical and biological weapon capabilities of countries in the Middle East adapted from a forthcoming Carnegie study, Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction (June 2002). Next week's analysis will assess regional missile arsenals.
Israel's Chemical and Biological Weapon Capabilities
Israel possesses advanced chemical and biological weapons capabilities, although it is not known what type or how many offensive agents it currently has. Israel is believed to have had sophisticated chemical and biological weapons programs for several decades which are centered at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) at Ness Ziona, some 10 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. There, Israel reportedly has conducted advanced research on both chemical and biological warfare.
Lacking authoritative information, non-Israeli publications have made many claims about Israel's CBW capabilities, from the trivial to the most sensationalist. The government of Israel, as part of its traditional deliberate ambiguity policy, has neither confirmed nor denied those reports. Acknowledging the difficulties in assessing Israel's CBW programs and capabilities, Avner Cohen recently characterized Israel's capabilities in these fields in the following way: "A near-consensus exists among experts-based on anecdotal evidence and intelligence leaks-that Israel developed, produced, stockpiled, and maybe even deployed chemical weapons at some point in its history." As to biological weapons, however, Cohen appears more cautious and tentative: "It would be logical-given the experience with Iraq-that Israel has acquired expertise in most aspects of weaponization, with the possible exception of testing. Although it is probable that Israel has maintained some sort of production capability, it is highly doubtful that Israel engages in the ongoing production or stockpiling of BW agents."
A 1990 DIA study reported that Israel had an operational chemical warfare testing facility. In an oblique Israeli reference, the authoritative Middle East Military Balance produced by the Jaffe Center notes, "The chemical and biological capabilities of Syria, Iraq and Iran are matched, according to foreign sources, by Israel's possession of a wide range of such weapons." Israel has signed but not yet ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention and is not a party to the Biological Weapons Convention.
Iraq's Chemical and Biological Weapon Capabilities
The absence of UN monitoring since 1998 has aroused concerns that Iraq again may have produced some biological warfare agents. Iraq currently maintains numerous science and medical facilities furnished with dual-use equipment where potential BW-related work could easily take place. According to UN estimates, Iraq possesses the technology and expertise to reconstitute an offensive biological weapons program within a few weeks or months. Iraq's continual refusal to disclose any details about its biological weapons program have lead U.S. officials to conclude that Baghdad maintains an active program, in spite of Iraq's ratification of the BWC in 1991. "The United States strongly suspects that Iraq has taken advantage of three years of no UN inspections to improve all phases of its offensive BW program. The existence of Iraq's program is beyond dispute, in complete contravention of the BWC." In the absence of further monitoring, the current status of the Iraqi chemical weapons program is also unknown. Iraq maintains the expertise to resume chemical agent production within a few weeks or months. However, to attain former levels of production, Iraq would need significant amounts of foreign assistance.
Iran's Chemical and Biological Weapon Capabilities
Although Iran is a member of the Biological Weapons Convention, U.S. intelligence reports claim that Iran currently maintains an offensive biological weapons program. The Iranian program is believed to include active research and development, agent production and weaponization.
In May 1998, after acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Tehran acknowledged past Iranian involvement in chemical weapons development and production. Like the Iranian BW program, the chemical weapons program began in the 1980's during the war with Iraq. Officials claimed that the Iranian CW program was dismantled at the war's end. U.S. threat assessments, however, contend that Iran's chemical weapons program remains intact. It is believed that Iran possesses a stockpile of weaponized blood gases, and blister and pulmonary agents.
Egypt, Syria, Libya and Sudan's Chemical and Biological Weapon Capabilities
There is considerable evidence that Egypt started a biological weapon research program in the early 1960s that produced weaponized agents. In 1996, U.S. officials reported that Egypt had developed biological warfare agents by 1972 and that "there is no evidence to indicate that Egypt has eliminated this capability and it remains likely that the Egyptian capability to conduct biological warfare continues to exist." Currently, Egyptian officials assert that Egypt never developed, produced or stockpiled biological weapons. Syria has a biotechnical infrastructure capable of supporting limited agent development but has not begun a major effort to produce biological agents or to put them into weapons, according to official U.S. assessments. Libya is also believed to have a program, but it has not advanced beyond basic research and development. Sudan is not believed to have a biological weapon program, but U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of Sudanese interest in developing a program.
Title: Arms Scientists Said To Have Fled To Syria
Date: April 12, 2003
Abstract: Some of Iraq's top weapons scientists already have fled their country and are in Syria, from where they may seek political safety in France, administration sources said yesterday.
The officials said among those believed to have made it to Syria are Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash and Rihab Taha, both top scientists in Iraq's biological-weapons program. The administration sources said there are intelligence reports that one, or both, made it to Damascus.
Mrs. Taha is a British-trained microbiologist, who led Iraq's drive to cultivate and weaponize deadly anthrax. Nicknamed "Dr. Germ," she is believed to hold vast knowledge concerning all of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's development of weapons of mass destruction.
Mrs. Ammash has been nicknamed "Mrs. Anthrax" by Western reporters. She has been photographed at Saddam's Cabinet meetings, and at a meeting with his son, Qusai, who ran most of Iraq's military and security organizations.
The two women are notable not only for their expertise in weaponizing germs, but also because they both attained senior positions among the male-dominated Ba'ath Party.
Mrs. Ammash's picture and name were listed yesterday by the U.S. Central Command as one of 55 most-wanted Iraqis for possible war-crimes charges. Mrs. Taha was not listed, although she is wanted for questioning.
They are of great potential value to American weapons inspectors who want leads on where Saddam has hidden his weapons of mass destruction.
One administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there are intelligence reports that Iraqi weapons scientists are seeking safety in France. Paris aided Saddam's nuclear-weapons program, helped build Baghdad's air-defense network and vehemently opposed the ongoing war that toppled the dictator.
U.S. officials declined to put a number on how many Iraqi weapons scientists have entered Syria, but estimated it is fewer than 10 at this point.
Allied forces set up checkpoints early in the war at crucial highway intersections. But military officials say it is impossible to stop every car and search it.
There have been two days of intense firefights between U.S. troops and Iraqi forces in the town of Qa'im, which lies just 20 miles from the Syrian border and is a key juncture in the escape route from Baghdad to Damascus.
During the inspection regime by the United Nations that ended before the war started March 19, inspectors failed to gain unfettered access to any Iraqi weapons scientists except one biological-warfare researcher.
Reports that Iraqi scientists have left Baghdad for Syria comes as the U.S. Central Command announced yesterday a most-wanted list of 55 Ba'ath Party leaders. The "wanted posters" came in the form of a deck of cards — this one with 55 cards, each showing a picture of an Iraqi fugitive. Saddam, who may have been killed in a Monday air strike, is the ace of spades.
The current government in Syria, like Saddam's regime, was founded as a hard-line dictatorship. Since the war started, Syria has purportedly come to Baghdad's aid in several ways, including shipping night-vision military equipment and allowing suicidal non-Iraqi Arabs to travel through Syria to Iraq to attack the allies.
Now, Syria is providing a haven to Iraqi Ba'athists, including some weapons experts. The exodus began with the family members of Saddam's regime. But as Army soldiers and the Marines got closer to Baghdad last week, regime figures started showing up in Syria.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has warned Syria several times publicly to stop helping Saddam's defeated regime and did so again yesterday.
"They have allowed people to come out of that country into their country and either stay or transit. None of these things are helpful," he said.
Mrs. Taha is married to Iraq's oil minister, Lt. Gen. Amir Rashid Mohammed Ubaydi. During the U.N. inspections regime of the 1990s, inspectors interviewed Mrs. Taha frequently. A loyal Ba'athist, she often responded angrily, and in one instance threw furniture.
Gen. Ubaydi is on the most-wanted list of 55.
Mrs. Taha ran Iraq's supersecret biological-warfare program at a research lab in the town of Hakam beginning in the mid-1980s.
Many senior Iraqi ministers, generals and Ba'ath Party members suddenly disappeared on Monday from Baghdad two days before the city fell to the U.S.-led coalition. The vanishing act came hours after a U.S. Air Force B-1B dropped four 2,000-pound bombs on a building in Baghdad suspected of holding Saddam, his sons, Uday and Qusai, and other officials.
The target was a safe house for the Iraqi Intelligence Service in the western Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad, behind the popular al Saa restaurant.
"There were two places. One was a restaurant, and one was a house nearby," Mr. Rumsfeld said yesterday. "And the question is, who was in what, if anybody? And the answer is, do we have ground truth there? And the answer is no."
The four satellite-guided bombs destroyed a row of buildings, and left a deep crater.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said U.S. forces will eventually examine the bombing site located in the Ba'ath Party stronghold. But for now, occupying troops have more important missions.
"I think our priorities now would not be to be digging in rubble," said Gen. Myers.
The CIA received
human intelligence that Saddam went into the building and did not come out
before the bombs destroyed it (UCLA, 2003).
Title: U.S. Report Finds Active Biological Weapons Programs In Iran, North
Korea, Russia And Syria
Date: September 7, 2005
Abstract: The U.S. State Department has found that Iran, North Korea, Russia and Syria are maintaining biological weapons programs, the Associated Press reported last week (see GSN, March 29).
The State Department also found that China still has “some elements” of a biological weapons program, while experts failed to agree on Cuba’s bioweapons production capacity, AP reported.
The findings were outlined in the State Department’s “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” report. The congressionally mandated report, covering the two-year period ending in December 2004, details individual country’s WMD capabilities and missile proliferation efforts, according to AP.
According to the report: Based on available intelligence, Iran is believed to have an offensive biological weapons program; North Korea has a “dedicated, national-level effort to develop a BW capability; Russia “continues to maintain” a weapons program; and Syria would be in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention if it was a member.
China “maintains some elements of an offensive BW capability,” while Cuba has at least a “limited offensive BW research and development effort,” the report found (George Gedda, Associated Press/Baltimore Sun, Aug. 30).
China rejected the report’s findings, according to Voice of America.
“These statements are far from the truth, and are irresponsible,” said Zhang Yan, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's arms control department. “We hope that the U.S. side will stop such erroneous practices, and we also express our strong dissatisfaction” (Luis Ramirez, Voice of America, Sept. 1).
Russia has also challenged statements made in the report regarding its weapons programs, RIA Novosti reported last week.
“Those are not new accusations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The Russian Foreign Ministry has had to comment on similar points in other ‘research papers’ that put Russia in a group of countries violating nonproliferation agreements without providing any evidence many times before.”
The Foreign Ministry said the report presents “a one-sided and distorted picture of the implementation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.”
Russia said the State Department offered no evidence that it has failed to honor its Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention commitments (NTI, 2005).
Title: Syria Ready With Bio-Terror If U.S. Hits Iran: Damascus Reportedly Hiding WMD Smong Commercial Pharmaceuticals
Date: March 5, 2007
Abstract: An American biodefense analyst living in Europe says if the U.S. invades Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions, Syria is ready to respond with weapons of mass destruction – specifically biological weapons.
“Syria is positioned to launch a biological attack on Israel or Europe should the U.S. attack Iran,” Jill Bellamy-Dekker told WND. “The Syrians are embedding their biological weapons program into their commercial pharmaceuticals business and their veterinary vaccine-research facilities. The intelligence service oversees Syria’s ‘bio-farm’ program and the Ministry of Defense is well interfaced into the effort.”
Bellamy-Decker currently directs the Public Health Preparedness program for the European Homeland Security Association under the French High Committee for Civil Defense.
She anticipates a variation of smallpox is the biological agent Syria would utilize.
“The Syrians are also working on orthopox viruses that are related to smallpox,” Bellamy-Decker said, “and it’s a good way to get around international treaties against offensive biological weapons development. They work on camelpox as a cover for smallpox.”
According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, camelpox is a virus closely related to smallpox, that causes a “severe and economically important disease in camels,” but rarely, if ever, causes the disease in humans.
Bellamy-Decker also told WND the North Koreans were working closely with the Syrians on their biological weapons program.
“The Syrians have made some recent acquisitions in regard to their smallpox program from the DPRK,” she explained. “Right before the recent Lebanon war, the Syrians had a crash program in cryptosporidium.”
According to the Washington State Department of Health, cryptosporidium is a one-celled parasite that causes a gastrointestinal illness with symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and a low-grade fever. The symptoms can last for weeks and may result in weight loss and dehydration.
“Because cryptosporidium is impervious to chlorine,” Bellamy-Decker continued, “you could infect the water supply by the bucket full of cryptosporidium, if you know where to get it. The resulting illness would put down a lot of civilians and military who might oppose you going into their country.”
“The Syrians have a modus operandi of covert operations and deniability,” she stressed, “so biological weapons are absolutely perfect for them.”
WND asked Bellamy-Decker if the Syrians have any history of having used biological weapons.
“I believe they are testing biological weapons right now, in Sudan, in the conflict in Darfur,” she answered. “There is credible information about flyover activity in Darfur, where little parachutes have been dropped down on the population. This is consistent with dispersal methods in bioweapons attacks. I’ve also seen evidence of bodies that have been recovered from Darfur that look as if they had been exposed to biological weapons.”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum Feb. 28 to exchange expressions of support and solidarity.
“The Syrians now consider biological weapons as part of their arsenal,” Bellamy-Decker said. “The Syrian military is also beginning to plan the eventual integration of biological weapons in its tactical and strategic arsenals.”
She referenced an April 2000 article published by Syrian defense minister General Mustafa Talas, titled “Biological (Germ) Warfare: A New and Effective Method in Modern Warfare.” The article was republished in a Farsi translation in Tehran.
“All indications suggest that Syria’s ultimate objective is to mount biological warheads on all varieties of the long-range surface-to-surface missiles in its possession,” Bellamy-Decker maintained. “This is a goal that can probably be achieved within a few years, and it may already have been realized in part.”
She argued that instead of producing large quantities of bioweapons agents, Syria is seeking to develop a smaller, but high-quality arsenal, which it can deliver accurately against military and civilian targets.
When asked how Syria might be expected to retaliate against Israel or Europe if the U.S. attacked Iran, she responded, “Syria has most likely forward-deployed some of their covert operatives. Smallpox does not need to be weaponized. Aerosol release is the way to go.”
Bellamy-Decker explained the methodology of a terrorist bio-attack:
So with a good primary aerosol release in an airport in Israel or Europe and you could get 100 index cases. If you’ve made the strain sufficiently virulent, you could have a ratio of 1 to 13 for infectivity, where the normal ratio is 1 to 3. If every index case infects 13 other people, you unfortunately have a great first hit.
“A terrorist bio-attack could go global,” she noted. “A good biological hit will spread rapidly with international travel. Smallpox is a better weapon than anthrax. Smallpox has been field-tested, it is highly stable, and highly communicable, especially if you look at some of the strains the Russians manipulated. Syria probably retained some of [its] smallpox strains from the last outbreak back in 1972.”
Another risk is the possibility Syria’s military might give bioweapons to terrorists.
“We are close to seeing a breakthrough where Syria could provide biological weapons to some of the terrorist groups they work with, like Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Bellamy-Decker argued. “The Syrians believe they can vaccinate themselves and they are working within the Syrian military. They’re certainly not worried about releasing these biological weapons in a military setting, or even if civilians were infected as well, as long as they are vaccinated. I think it is a real threat.”
Bellamy-Decker is presenting a paper at this week’s Intelligence Summit in St. Petersburg, Fla. It is expected to focus on the sophisticated state of development of the Syrian bioweapons program.
“The Syrians have developed a rather remarkable bioweapons capability that has gone under the radar of U.S. intelligence,” she said. “U.S. intelligence continues to insist that the Syrian capability is not highly developed. The Syrian program mirrors how the Russians have developed their program, as well as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, North Korea, and Iran. The emphasis in the Syrian program is on latent potential and outbreak capability.”
Bellamy-Decker explained we should not expect to find stockpiles of biological weapons.
“Stockpiles are just not how biological weapons are done,” she said. “With biological weapons, it is not the quantity, but the quality that counts. If you can produce a virulent, communicable strain, then you have a great biological weapon and it doesn’t matter how much of it you have, it depends on what the weapon looks like.”
Bellamy-Decker also referenced a paper she had co-authored for the European Homeland Security Association (EHSA) titled, “Public Health Security and Preparedness.”
This paper is intended to be used as part of a new initiative EHSA is launching in Brussels to hold a quarterly bioterrorism forum bringing together national and international experts with high-level decision-makers “to discuss the threat posed by deliberate disease and the appropriate preparedness and response mechanisms vitally needed to address this threat” (WND, 2007).
Title: Mysterious Plague Outbreak Among Syrian Army
Date: July 6, 2010
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: An outbreak of plague, which is considerd a potential bioweapon, among the Syrian military may be raising more questions than answers.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently ordered the shutdown of all Syrian military exercises due to a plague that currently affects a large number of military personnel, according to Examiner.com.
The Syrian president has told Syrian news sources that food and drinking water in military bases, coupled with one of the country’s worst droughts in over 40 years, are responsible for the outbreak of plague.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are experiencing food shortages, nearly 60,000 small livestock owners have lost all their animals and 50,000 others have lost 50 to 60 percent of their cattle.
The infectious bacterium Yersinia pestis causes the infectious disease plague, which is commonly found worldwide in rats and other rodents. Fleas often serve as common vectors of plague. There are three forms of human plague – bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.
Humans may also be infected by direct contact with an infected animal, through inhalation and, if it is pneumonic plague, by person to person contact.
Drinking water, food and a heat wave are not common causes of plague, Examiner.com says, unless they have increased the contact between humans and plague carriers.
Because of this, the article says, questions should be raised about the true cause of the Syrian army plague (Bio Prep Watch, 2010).
Title: Nations Of Concern: Syria
Date: July 15, 2011
Title: Experts Worried Syrian Chemical Weapons Could Fall Into Terrorists’
Date: August 30, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: As the political turmoil continues to increase in Syria, U.S. officials are closely monitoring the stockpile of weapons in the country, particularly its arsenal of deadly chemical gases and delivery systems.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, American officials are deeply concerned that political dissidents or terrorist organizations may take advantage of the instability in Syria to acquire some of the nation's weapons of mass destruction. Officials do not believe any weapon sites have yet been compromised, Business Insider reports.
The officials do fear, however, that the Syrian government could lose control of its chemical cache if the country descends even further into political disarray or even into a full-blown civil war.
The chemical stockpile in Syria is believed to include a large amount of mustard gas, Sarin gas – the nerve agent used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attacks that killed 13 and sickened over 1,000 – as well as the missile systems required to deliver those chemical weapons.
Privately, the U.S. has worried about the extent of Syria's cache of chemical weapons since at least 2008, when a secret state department cable warned about the mounting threat of the county's large stockpile and potential ties to terrorist groups, Business Insider reports. Those concerns have increased in recent months as the government of Syria has teetered on the brink of collapse.
The United Nations estimates that more than 2,200 people have been killed in the country as a result of a government crackdown on protesters, leading to a number of foreign governments, including the U.S., to call for Syrian President Assad to step down.
The Obama administration has expressed similar concerns about weapons going missing in Libya, where rebel forces ousted long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi last week (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Syria's 'Serious Chemical And Biological Threat'
Date: September 2, 2011
Abstract: Scientists have warned that Syria could be developing chemical and biological weapons to add to their already substantial stockpile.
Professor Christine Gosden of the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer at the University of Liverpool, and Dan Plesch, of the School of Oriental and African Studies, discuss the "serious problem" of such weapons in the hands of a "failing state" (BBC, 2012).
Title: Al-Qaeda Terrorists Airlifted From Libya To Aid Syrian Opposition
Date: November 28, 2011
Source: Prison Planet
Abstract: The same Al-Qaeda terrorists who fought U.S. troops in Iraq and helped NATO overthrow Colonel Gaddafi are now being airlifted into Syria to aid rebels there topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Libya’s transitional ruling authority has agreed to send weapons and fighters over to Syria to help the Free Syrian Army fight government forces.
“There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria,” a Libyan source told the London Telegraph, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see.”
In a separate piece, the Telegraph also reports that terrorist commander Abdulhakim Belhadj, now head of the Tripoli Military Council, “met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,” after being sent there by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the interim Libyan president.
A rival Libyan rebel brigade detained Belhadj at Tripoli airport for traveling on a fake passport and threatened to jail him before Jalil stepped in to intervene.
“Members of the Free Syrian Army on the borders of Lebanon and Turkey denied rumours circulating in Tripoli that “hundreds” of Libyans had tried to cross into Syria,” states the article, amidst other reports that Libyans have already been detained trying to infiltrate the country from the Turkish border.
As we previously documented, Abdulhakim Belhadj is the former front man for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. Belhadj was captured by the CIA in Malaysia in 2003 and extradited to Libya where Colonel Gaddafi had him imprisoned. Belhadj is a committed jihadist who fought with the Taliban against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi also admitted that Belhadj’s LIFG fighters were the second-largest cohort of foreign fighters in Iraq, responsible for killing U.S. troops.
A 2007 West Point report indicated that the Benghazi-Darnah-Tobruk area of Libya is a world capital for Al-Qaeda or mujahideen suicide bomber recruitment. Author Webster Tarpley details this intelligence in his excellent analysis piece, The CIA’s Libya Rebels: The Same Terrorists who Killed US, NATO Troops in Iraq. The West Point report detailed how the LIFG and Al-Qaeda had formed an “increasingly co-operative relationship”.
Libyan rebels have gone on to impose a “reign of terror” across the country, throwing blacks in concentration camps while torturing and murdering thousands of others before imposing Sharia law.The official Al-Qaeda flag now flies high and proud above Libyan cities as armed gangs roam the streets.
Following the fall of Tripoli, reports circulated that Libyan rebels had acquired a deadly arsenal of weapons, many of which are now on their way to Syria to aid in the overthrow of Assad.
“Qatar and Turkey were reported to be airlifting “volunteers” from Libya to fight alongside the rebel Free Syrian Army, some also transporting weapons,” reports Israeli intelligence source DebkaFile.
These terrorists have already beenimplicated in the killing of 10 air force personnel at a Syrian military base last week, even as the western media continues to characterize opposition fighters as “protesters,” just as they did with Libyan rebels who were commandeering fighter jets and firing rocket-propelled grenades.
While being hailed as liberators and freedom fighters by the media, terrorists who killed U.S. troops and who are now throwing black Libyans in torture camps, are yet again going to be used as the vanguard of the next act of US/NATO middle eastern regime change, all carefully orchestrated under the smoke and mirrors of the contrived “Arab Spring”.
In related developments, DebkaFile also reports that “Israeli armored brigades pushed forward up to the Lebanese and Syrian borders,” over the weekend, while US and Russian warships are now “in the midst of a naval buildup opposite Syrian shores.”
As we reported last week, in an identical pattern to how U.S. warships surrounded Libya in the days before the NATO bombardment began, the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush was repositioned off the coast of Syria in recent days having moved from its usual theater of operations in the Straits of Hormuz.
Title: Syrian 'Chemical, Biological' Weapons Concern Israel
Date: January 17, 2012
Abstract: IDF's planning division head says chemical, biological weapons still flowing into Syria, wonders 'what will be transferred to Hezbollah?' Israel has serious concerns about what will happen to "huge stockpiles" of chemical and biological weapons in Syria when the Assad regime collapses, a senior military official said on Tuesday.
Major-General Amir Eshel, head of the Israeli military's planning division, said the working assumption was the regime of President Bashar Assad would eventually fall.
"The question is when, not if. And the big question is what's going to come the day after," he said.
"The immediate concern is the huge stockpiles of chemicals, biologicals (weapons), strategic capabilities that are still going into Syria, mainly from eastern Europe," Eshel said.
"That's a major concern because I don't know who is going to own those the day after. Up till now, what has been transferred to Hezbollah? What will be transferred to Hezbollah? What will be divided between those factions inside Syria? What is that going to create?
"We are talking about huge stockpiles," he said.
The regime has spearheaded a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy activists seeking to overthrow Assad, who has vowed to remain in power, raising the specter of civil war between Syria's many religious sects if he steps down.
Eshel said the threat of civil war was a real possibility if Assad clung to power.
"If Assad will adopt this Yemenite model and leave, it might prevent a civil war," he said, referring to an agreement that saw Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh agree in November to leave power.
"But if he won't leave of his own will, we might get into civil war," he said. "If there will be a civil war, it might be a disaster."
Eshel also warned that Syria faces bankruptcy, which could create new instability.
"I think the major challenge the Syrians will face in a few months, is bankruptcy. The reserves will be zero, and this is going to create, I think, internal turmoil. We can expect refugees in many countries."
Title: Hezbollah May Obtain Syria's Non-Conventional Weapons
Date: January 18, 2012
Title: Concerns Continue To Mount About Syrian Bioweapons
Date: January 20, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Worries continue to mount over the potential that the vast stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria could fall into the hands of militants as the days of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad look increasingly numbered.
While the size and quality of the chemical arsenal in Syria is not known, experts are fairly certain that Damascus operates a comprehensive weapons program encompassing both production and delivery capabilities, AINA reports.
“We are talking about huge stockpiles,” Major-General Amir Eshel, the head of the Israeli military planning division, said, according to AINA. “That’s a major concern because I don’t know who is going to own those the day after. Up till now, what has been transferred to Hezbollah? What will be transferred to Hezbollah? What will be divided between those factions inside Syria?”
There were similar concerns about the chemical weapons arsenal of Libya under the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is thought to be much bigger and more sophisticated.
“Syria has never signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and has been indifferent over the years to our consistent overtures to open a discussion on the issue,” Luhan said, according to AINA. “We’re monitoring events in Syria closely … and hope whatever situation subsequently develops from the turmoil will create more favorable circumstances for joining the convention.”
Title: Biological Weapons In Syria And Bioterrorism In USA
Date: January 21, 2012
Title: Israeli Officials: Terrorists May Get Syria's Weapons
Date: February 7, 2012
Abstract: With violence mounting, the growing threat to President Bashar Assad's regime is raising concern in Israel that weapons from Syria's military could fall into the hands of terrorist groups, defense officials told Haaretz on Monday.
Following the bloody weekend assault on Homs by Assad's forces, Israeli defense sources said large amounts of weapons could be transferred to Hezbollah, in Lebanon, or to other organizations.
The weapons include advanced SA missiles, high-trajectory long-range rockets and missiles, and biological and chemical weapons, the officials said.
Speaking last week at the Herzliya Conference, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen in Syria. We're watching for attempts to pass advanced weapons systems that could edge the delicate balance in Lebanon to Hezbollah."
Incoming Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel told foreign journalists in Jerusalem last month that, as far as Assad's fall is concerned, "the question is when, not if. And the big question is what will happen the following day."
Eshel said Israel's immediate concern is Syria's huge cache of chemical and biological weapons - coming mainly from East European states - and into whose hands it will fall.
"What has been passed on to Hezbollah so far? What will be passed on in the future? What will be divided between the two factions in Syria?" he asked.
Israel has been warning for several years that Syria may provide Hezbollah with advanced weapons systems. The foreign media reported that Hezbollah has maintained training bases and arsenals in Syria, near the Lebanon border, since 2008. Arab media reported Syria had moved Scud missiles to Hezbollah camps in Lebanon and that advanced SA missiles had been set up in the mountains of Lebanon.
Other reports, unconfirmed by Israel, said Israel considered attacking convoys carrying weapons from Syria to Lebanon on several occasions in recent years.
However, the concern is greater now because Assad's forces seem to be losing their grip on the state. This could result in passing weapons to Hezbollah, or in radical Sunni factions taking over the arsenals, the officials said.
After Muammar Gadhafi's regime collapsed in Libya last year, the army's caches were looted and SA missiles and rockets found their way to various terror organizations - from militias in east Africa, to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, officials said (Haaretz, 2012).
Title: Hizbullah Chemical War Threat to Israel If Assad Falls
Date: February 7, 2012
Source: Israel National News
Abstract: The expected fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime may be Hizbullah’s gain of chemical and biological weapons that could be used against Israel, officials fear.
The latest concerns, reported by foreign news services, come three weeks after former Labor party Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned, “We are talking in terms of thousands of missiles that might move to Hizbullah and might endanger the whole Middle East.”
He told a news conference organized by the Israel Project that Syrian’s arsenal includes biological and chemical weapons.
Lebanese sources have reported that Hizbullah has been increasing its smuggling of weapons from Syria.
Defense officials told the Associated Press this week that they are worried Hizbullah will obtain Syria’s S-125 anti-aircraft missiles, which could down surveillance flights Israel conducts over southern Lebanon. The terrorist organization has created a “state within a state” in the area.
In 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak suddenly pulled all military personnel out of the “security zone” in southern Lebanon, from where terrorists shot missiles on northern Israel. Hizbullah easily filled the vacuum of power. With the absence of Israeli intelligence, it stockpiled 20,000 missiles until launching the Second Lebanon War against Israel in the summer of 2006.
An Israel intelligence official said last week that Israel now faces 200,000 missiles on all fronts (Israel National News, 2012).
Title: Israel Warns Against Syrian Bioweapons Falling Into Hezbollah’s Hands
Date: February 8, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Israel recently announced that it considers the threat of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands to be equal to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons development.
The violent crackdown on Syrian civilian protestors has entered its eleventh month, and the Israeli intelligence community now considers the fall of Bashar al-Assad’s government all but inevitable, according to the Telegraph.
Al-Assad’s massive weapons stockpile includes chemical and biological weapons, surface-to-air missiles and high-trajectory long-range rockets – all considered threats to Israeli security. The weapons are currently under the care of government forces.
With Assad reportedly losing his grip on power, the danger grows that his weapons, including deadly chemical agents like sarin and VX, will fall into the hands of Sunni extremists or the Tehran-backed militant Shiite group Hezbollah, the Telegraph reports.
Israel Hayom, a newspaper closely aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, recently quoted a high-ranking Israeli defense official who warned Syria that any transfer of WMDs to Lebanon would be tantamount to a declaration of war by the government in Beirut. The official added that Israel would act in order to prevent such a move.
Incoming Israeli Air Force Chief Major General Emir Eshel said that the unrest in Syria could precipitate a conflict on Israel’s northern border.
“The question is when, not if [Assad will fall]. And the big question is what will happen the following day,” Eshel said, the Telegraph reports. “What has been passed on to Hezbollah so far? What will be passed on in the future? What will be divided between the two factions in Syria?” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Report: British Special Forces Enter Syria To Aid Rebels
Date: February 8, 2012
Source: Prison Planet
Abstract: British Special Forces are on the ground in Syria directing rebel fighters in a repeat of how Libyan rebels were aided in the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, according to a report by Israeli intelligence outfit DebkaFile.
“British and Qatari special operations units are operating with rebel forces under cover in the Syrian city of Homs just 162 kilometers from Damascus, according to DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources,” states the report, adding that the foreign units are not engaging in direct combat but are acting in an advisory capacity, while also relaying requests for arms outside of the country.
The report suggests that the situation in Syria is developing in an almost identical manner to how rebels in Libya were aided by British and French Special Forces.
Given reports that Iran is preparing to dispatch 15,000 troops to help the embattled President Bashar Assad, the west’s quest for regime change in Syria could also manifest itself as a proxy war with Tehran.
As we previously reported, the same Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who fought U.S. troops in Iraq and helped NATO powers overthrow Colonel Gaddafi were airlifted into Syria to aid rebels there in attempting to topple President Bashar al-Assad in November last year.
Former terrorist turned Libyan rebel leader Abdulhakim Belhadj, now head of the Tripoli Military Council, “met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,” after being sent there by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the interim Libyan president, the London Telegraph reported.
As we previously documented, Belhadj is the former front man for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. Belhadj was captured by the CIA in Malaysia in 2003 and extradited to Libya where Colonel Gaddafi had him imprisoned. Belhadj is a committed jihadist who fought with the Taliban against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi also admitted that Belhadj’s LIFG fighters were the second-largest cohort of foreign fighters in Iraq, responsible for killing U.S. troops.
Whereas the western corporate media has attempted to portray the bloodshed in Syria as a one sided affair, with Assad’s regime being solely responsible for the atrocities, independent observers have noted that both sides are culpable for the violence.
In their report, Arab League monitors who toured the country last month noted that the media has greatly exaggerated the amount of violence taking place in Syria. It also emphasized that the opposition rebels had also perpetrated indiscriminate violence against government forces.
Despite trumpeting the entrance of Arab League monitors as a major milestone, the corporate media seemed to lose interest when the feedback did not portray Assad’s government as a bloodthirsty genocidal regime engaged in organized repression.“The report did not follow the official GCC line – which is that the “evil” Bashar al-Assad government is indiscriminately, and unilaterally, killing its own people, and so regime change is in order,” writes Pepe Escobar, noting how “the report was either ignored (by Western corporate media) or mercilessly destroyed – by Arab media” (Prison Planet, 2012).
Title: Assad Forces Mull Use Of Chemical Weapons In Homs, Opposition Says
Date: February 9, 2012
Abstract: Opposition figures claim government stockpiling chemical weapons and distributing gas masks to soldiers near Homs; 130 people reportedly killed on Thursday as government intensifies crackdown.
Syria's military has begun stockpiling chemical weapons and equipping its soldiers with gas masks near the city of Homs, opposition sources reported on Thursday.
Opposition activists said they had received reports that the Syrian army had transferred a significant quantity of grenades and mortars containing chemical agents to a school building in Homs.
The opposition also reported that gas masks were being distributed to soldiers at roadblocks.
Homs has become the focal point of violent confrontations between insurgents and the country's military in recent days, and opposition figures are concerned that the moves could signal the regime's intention to use chemical weapons against its citizens.
News agencies reported over 130
killed in Syria on Thursday, as Bashar Assad's government intensified its
crackdown on an expanding uprising against his regime.
Demonstrations were reported on Thursday in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city, which had previously not seen large-scale protests against the government.
Meanwhile, an opposition website reported that an armored brigade of the Syrian military was headed toward the city of Zabadani, which has been held for the past ten days by the Free Syrian Army, the opposition's armed wing. The site speculated that the brigade would attempt to retake the city over the next two days.
Opposition sources said the ferocity of attacks by government forces against the cities of Homs, Idlib and Daraa had reached unprecedented levels of intensity over the past two days, with hospitals and clinics bombed and doctors arrested.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday said there was a need to continue to maintain pressure on Syria's government over its bloody crackdown on the country's opposition.
"Clearly what we are seeing on our television screens is completely unacceptable," Cameron told a news conference in Stockholm. "It really is appalling to see the destruction of Homs… It is quite clear that this is a regime that is hell-bent on killing, murdering and maiming its own citizens."
Cameron added that there was a need to "take the toughest response we can" against Syria.
Arab League foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday to discuss the organization's next steps on the crisis. The Arab League suspended its monitoring mission to Syria in late January due to the rising violence.
Approximately 6,000-7,000 people
have died thus far in the 11-month uprising, which has become increasingly
militarized in recent months (Haaretz, 2012).
Title: U.S. Steps Up Watch Of Syria Chemical Weapons
Date: February 15, 2012
Source: Wall Street Journal
Abstract: The U.S. and some Mideast allies are intensifying surveillance of Syria's chemical and biological depots amid fears that the weapons could go loose if unrest escalates out of control.
The U.S. is using satellites and other surveillance equipment to monitor suspected chemical and biological weapons storage sites in Syria, military officials said, reflecting Washington's concerns about a growing proliferation threat.
Officials say, however, that they have seen no evidence so far to suggest that any of the stockpiles are in immediate danger of being overrun by antiregime forces or Islamist militants, which they believe are currently incapable of conducting raids of the necessary sophistication. Facilities where stocks of nerve agents and mustard gas are stored are guarded by regime loyalists and were built to withstand attack, U.S. officials believe.
U.S. officials said they believe the Syrian regime has strong reasons to secure their weapons stockpiles. "Most countries that have [chemical weapons] stocks view it as a strategic, not tactical, tool—and strategic tools are usually pretty well protected," a U.S. official said.
The Obama administration has intensified coordination with Syria's neighbors, particularly Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, to guard against the potential of Syrian weapons of mass destruction moving outside its borders, U.S. and Arab officials said.
The U.S.-led effort underlines Washington's concern about the increasing violence in Syria and the lack of options to address it after China and Russia this month vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
Activists on Tuesday reported some of the heaviest shelling of Homs yet in the 11th day of a siege that activist groups say has left hundreds of Syrians dead. Along with battles between troops and defectors around Hama, in which five government soldiers were killed, 20 civilians were killed by government across Syria on Tuesday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Another opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, reported 40 people killed.
Arab states continued to prepare a new U.N. General Assembly resolution that would ramp up diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime. The Arab League on Sunday passed its own Syria resolution, proposing a joint peacekeeping mission with the U.N. and vowing to support the Syrian opposition politically and materially. Some Arab diplomats interpreted that wording as indication that Arab states were readying to arm opposition forces.
U.S. military leaders believe they need a clearer picture of the array of rebel forces on the ground before considering taking any steps to aid any of the groups with equipment. Potential options include providing nonlethal communications gear to the rebels, officials said.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, highlighted the gap in U.S. intelligence about Mr. Assad's opponents. "We don't have as clear an understanding of the nature of the opposition. We are working with the intelligence community to develop it," Gen. Dempsey said.
It took the U.S. months to assess the opposition in Libya. U.S. military officials said the situation is even more complicated in Syria, where Mr. Assad commands heavily armored brigades, sophisticated air defenses, thousands of rockets and chemical weapons.
Pointing to the threat posed by Syria's chemical and biological weapons stocks, Gen. Dempsey said: "We are watching the trend lines on their military to make sure they are still under control of the regime."
Gen. Dempsey said the Free Syrian Army currently is the centerpiece of the opposition and is "for the most part" made up of fighters from Syria, but he added: "We also know that other regional actors are providing support and that complicates the situation."
Intelligence agencies are working to understand the makeup of the opposition. The effort appears to be similar to the one in Libya in the early phase of that conflict.Some U.S. officials suspect al Qaeda militants may have been behind a recent series of bombings in Syria. Officials say some Sunni militants have entered Syria from neighboring Iraq. The U.S. believes at least some of the arms being used by rebels in Syria were supplied by Sunni tribes in Iraq.
Gen. Dempsey didn't confirm reports about al Qaeda's involvement but said the group's presence in Syria shouldn't be discounted. "All of the players in the region, it seems, have a stake in this. Those who would like to foment a Sunni-Shia standoff, and you know who they are, are all weighing in in Syria," he said.
"Syria is a country of significant proliferation concern, so we monitor its chemical weapons activities very closely," White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said. "We will continue to work closely with like-minded countries to impede proliferation to Syria's chemical weapons program."
Separately, Gen. Dempsey said that on a trip to Egypt over the weekend, he tossed out his planned agenda for meetings and told his counterparts, including the country's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, that they had to resolve U.S. complaints over the treatment of pro-democracy groups and detained Americans.
Egypt is pursuing charges that more than 40 people, including 16 Americans, violated Egyptian laws through the activities of pro-democracy groups, including organizations funded by Congress (Wall Street Journal, 2012).
Title: U.N. Concerned That Syria Could Have Chemical Weapons
Date: March 5, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, and Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, have warned that Syria may have chemical weapons.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that Syria has an integrated air defense system and biological and chemical weapons, Reuters reports.
In the last 11 months, a crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in the country has led to the deaths of over 7,500 civilians at the hands of Syrian security forces.
“On Syria, the secretary-general and the director-general noted with concern the reports on the possible existence of chemical weapons in the country,” Martin Nesirky, a U.N. spokesperson said, according to Reuters. “Those concerns are entirely understandable.”
According to Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, Washington is also concerned that Syria may have weapons of mass destruction.
“This is a topic that’s being discussed actively with Syria’s neighbors and with our allies in Europe and elsewhere,” Feltman said, according to Reuters. “We don’t have any indication at this point that these stockpiles have fallen out of the control of the Syrian government, but it’s one of the reasons why a managed transition is so important. We’re watching this. We’re watching it carefully.”
The OPCW monitors compliance with the anti-chemical weapons convention, of which Syria is not a signatory (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: General Warns Of Syrian Bioweapons, Iran Threat
Date: March 6, 2012
Source: CBS News
Abstract: The top U.S. commander in the Middle East will warn Congress on Tuesday
against efforts to scale back the Navy's presence in the embattled region,
saying threats from Iran and elsewhere will require more ships and maritime
missile defense capabilities.
Marine Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, also said Syria has a "substantial" chemical and biological weapons capability and thousands of shoulder-launched missiles. Until now, the U.S. military has largely declined to describe the expanse of weapons that President Bashar Assad's regime has at its disposal.
Mattis laid out his concerns in testimony prepared for Senate and House Armed Services Committee hearings this week. He and Navy Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, are testifying before the Senate panel Tuesday. The testimony was obtained by The Associated Press.
Mattis' comments come as the Obama administration meets with Israeli leaders this week to discuss the escalating Iranian threat and the possibility of a pre-emptive strike by Israel.
Against a backdrop of roughly $500 billion in Pentagon budget cuts over the next decade, Mattis said the U.S. must use its Navy and special operations forces to maintain a smaller but still strong military presence in the Middle East as the wars in Iran and Afghanistan end.
"The stacked Iranian threats ... of ballistic missiles, long-range rockets, mines, small boats, cruise missiles and submarines demand stronger naval presence and capability to protect vital sea lines of communication," Mattis said.
At the same time, he described a deteriorating situation in Syria, fueled in part by Iran. The prospects of a civil war are rising in Syria, he said, but the "options available to address the situation are extremely challenging."
Some members of Congress have called for U.S. and international military action against the Assad regime to stem a brutal offensive against the Syrian people. But the Obama administration and other international leaders have opposed military intervention and instead have pushed instead for increased sanctions.
U.S. officials argue that unlike the military campaign in Libya last year that ousted Moammar Gadhafi, a military campaign in Syria would be far more difficult, would not get the backing of the U.N. Security Council and would be hampered by a less coordinated opposition force (CBS News, 2012).
Title: General Warns Of Syrian Bioweapons, Iran Threat
Date: March 6, 2012
Abstract: The top U.S. commander in the Middle East is warning against efforts to scale back the Navy’s presence in the embattled region, saying threats from Iran and elsewhere will require more ships and maritime missile defense capabilities.
Marine Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, is also telling Congress that Syria has a “substantial” chemical and biological weapons capability and thousands of shoulder-launched missiles. Until now, the U.S. military has largely declined to describe the weapons that President Bashar Assad’s (bah-SHAR’ AH’-sahd) regime has at its disposal.
Mattis laid out his concerns in testimony prepared for Senate and House Armed Services Committee hearings this week. The testimony was obtained by The Associated Press.
The Obama administration is meeting with Israeli leaders to discuss the escalating Iranian threat (Salon, 2012).
Title: Leaked Email: Pentagon Admits Plan To Direct Terror Attacks Inside Syria
Date: March 6, 2012
Abstract: A shocking email leaked as part of the Wikileaks Stratfor data dump reveals that the Pentagon is planning to direct terror attacks and assassinations inside Syria in a bid to topple President President Bashar al-Assad. (Infowars, 2012).
The email, written by Reva Bhalla, Stratfor’s Director of Analysis, contains details of a December 6 Pentagon meeting attended by members of the USAF strategic studies group along with four military officers at the Lieutenant Colonel level, “including one French and one British representative.”
Bhalla was told by the military officials that, despite official claims to the contrary, foreign troops from NATO powers were already on the ground in Syria.
“After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces,” states the email.
Bhalla goes on to describe how the mission of the undercover commandoes is hypothetically to “commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces [Assad's support base], elicit collapse from within.”
In other words, the Pentagon, along with other NATO powers, have already directed Special Forces troops stationed inside Syria to carry out terrorist attacks and assassinations in an effort to topple President President Bashar al-Assad.
The email states that such actions should be ready within a 2-3 month time period. Bhalla describes how a destabilization campaign was favorable to air strikes because unlike Libya, “Syrian air defenses are a lot more robust and are much denser.”
Some would argue that far from merely planning such attacks, the United States and other NATO powers are already using the Al-Qaeda- affiliated terrorists airlifted out of Libya into Syria to do the job for them. These terrorists have been blamed for bloody attacks that have killed both Syrian regime officials and innocent civilians, including a bombing last month in Syria’s second city of Aleppo which killed 28 people.
Footage has also emerged of western-looking troops carrying out indiscriminate attacks using rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Carrying out terrorist attacks to destabilize governments is not a conspiracy theory, it is a widely acknowledged form of covert warfare. Only last month NBC News reported that Israel was paying terror groups to carry out bombings and assassinations in Iran in a bid to weaken the regime in Tehran.
Reports of foreign troops entering Syria have been circulating for months.
Last month Israeli intelligence outfit DebkaFile revealed that British Special Forces were inside Syria “operating with rebel forces under cover in the Syrian city of Homs just 162 kilometers from Damascus.”
According to the report, the foreign units are not engaging in direct combat but are acting in an advisory capacity, while also relaying requests for arms outside of the country.
According to Egyptian security officials, United States, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are also providing arms and training for Syrian rebels, dovetailing with former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds’ report that hundreds of NATO and US troops arrived on the Jordanian and Syrian border back in December for the purpose of training militants to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
NATO member Turkey is also reportedly arming terrorist groups to aid rebel fighters. Leaders of the Free Syria Army have also bragged about the claim that France and the United States have provided them with weapons and anti-aircraft missiles.
As we reported last week, during a BBC interview U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that the United States and Al-Qaeda were on the same side when it came to achieving regime change in Syria.
Just as in Libya, where the overthrow of Gaddafi was achieved through the use of Al-Qaeda groups, NATO and the United States are once again turning to terrorists as a means of achieving their geopolitical objectives in the region.
Indeed, as we reported back in November, some of the same Al-Qaeda terrorists who fought U.S. troops in Iraq were airlifted into Syria to aid rebels. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri’s has also publicly expressed support for Syrian rebel forces (Infowars, 2012).
Title: Top U.S. Commander Says Syria Has Substantial Bioweapon Capability
Date: March 7, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: According to the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Syria has a “substantial” capability for biological and chemical weapons and an effort to scale back naval presence in the area could spell trouble.
Marine General James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, said that threats from Iran and other countries in the region require more ships and maritime missile defense capabilities as opposed to fewer. Mattis and Navy Admiral William McRaven testified before the Senate and House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Associated Press reports.
Mattis said that despite the $500 billion worth of Pentagon budget cuts in the next decade, the U.S. must use its special operations and its Navy to maintain a smaller but still strong military presence in the Middle East.
“The stacked Iranian threats…of ballistic missiles, long-range rockets, mines, small boats, cruise missiles and submarines demand stronger naval presence and capability to protect vital sea lines of communication,” Mattis said, according to Associated Press. “(In addition), options available to address the situation (in Syria) are extremely challenging.”
Some members of Congress have called for
military action by the U.S. and internationally against the Assad regime to
stop the brutal attacks against the Syrian people. Obama’s administration and
other leaders around the world have thus far opposed military intervention and
have recommended increasing sanctions (Bio
Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Panetta, Dempsey Warn Of Syria’s Bioweapons
Date: March 9, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Top U.S. military officials spoke on Wednesday about Syria’s extensive biological and chemical weapons stockpile and its sophisticated air defenses as a strategic reality check to the demand for U.S. military action.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said that they would be ready if the order is made but that the situation is currently too complicated to quickly jump into action. While Republican Sen. John McCain has called for the president to launch airstrikes against President Bashar Assad, few colleagues in Congress have expressed interest in such a tactic, Associated Press reports.
“The fundamental issue that is before us is whether or not the United States will go in and act unilaterally in that part of the world, and engage in another war in the Muslim world unilaterally,” Panetta said, according to Associated Press. “Or whether or not we will work with others in determining what action we take.”
Panetta said that the situation is dissimilar to what the U.S. faced in Libya because Syria’s air defenses are five times more sophisticated and its biological and chemical weapons stockpile is 100 times larger. In addition, attacks could lead to many unintended deaths.
“We also need to be alert to extremists,” Dempsey said, according to Associated Press. “(In addition to other hostile actors, including Iran which) has been exploiting the situation and expanding its support to the regime. And we need to be especially alert to the fate of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons. They need to stay exactly where they are.”
President Obama is
currently relying on sanctions and international diplomatic isolation to
pressure Assad’s regime into handing over power. The House’s Foreign Affairs
Committee unanimously approved harder sanctions on Syria targeting its energy
sector along with strengthening current penalties (Bio
Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Report: German Ship Halted With Weapons For
Date: April 14, 2012
Abstract: Germany's government said Saturday it is looking into a report that weapons bound for the Syrian regime were loaded onto a German-owned ship.
German weekly Der Spiegel reported that the Atlantic Cruiser was halted in the Mediterranean after its owners were warned it was suspected to be carrying Iranian military equipment to Tartus, Syria, where it was supposed to arrive Friday.
Der Spiegel quoted shipping agent Torsten Lueddeke of Hamburg-based C.E.G. Bulk Chartering as saying: "We stopped the ship after we received information on the weapons cargo."
He said the ship had been chartered to an Odessa, Ukraine-based company called White Whale Shipping and "they declared to us as cargo above all pumps and things like that," according to the report. "We would never have allowed weapons on board."
The ship's current whereabouts weren't clear. Der Spiegel — which reported that the suspect cargo was loaded in Djibouti — said it had changed course for Iskenderun, Turkey, on Friday and then stopped about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Tartus and sailed in circles.
Phones at C.E.G. and the German owner of the ship, which is registered in Antigua & Barbuda, rang unanswered on Saturday, and neither immediately responded to e-mailed requests for comment. The Ukrainian company also could not be reached for comment.
The German Economy Ministry said it was aware of the case and looks into all suspected embargo breaches, but didn't yet have any details.Germany has been a strong advocate of sanctions against Syria amid a violent crackdown by President Bashar Assad's government on the country's uprising. The 27-nation European Union has imposed an arms embargo among other measures (Guardian, 2012).
Title: Turkey Concerned About Syrian Chemical
Date: April 18, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Security analysts in Ankara, Turkey, are facing a growing concern that the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile could be used by Assad’s forces or its military proxies against Turkish interests.
Syria is the only one of Turkey’s neighbors that is not a signatory to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. The specific nature or capacity of its stockpile remains unknown, as do the exact whereabouts of its weapons, according toTodaysZaman.com.
Estimates from the Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies are that Syria possesses approximately 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and nerve agents such as sarin and VX. These agents are thought to be located mostly within cities close to the Turkish border.
When David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, visited Turkey in March, he spoke with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and senior Turkish military and intelligence leaders about the possibility that the weapons may be used by Assad’s forces in the near future. They also spoke about the possible transfer of these weapons to terrorist groups, either deliberately by Assad, or during a breakdown of the Assad regime, TodaysZaman.comreports.
Ankara has also voiced its concern that the Assad regime’s forces could use chemical weapons against besieged cities, triggering a massive wave of refugees seeking safety in Turkey (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: The 100 Most Influential People In The
World: Bashar Assad
Date: April 18, 2012
Abstract: Then there is Syrian President Bashar Assad. When he came to power in 2000, he seemed to be that mythical creature: a reformist autocrat. But the Arab Spring inspired many of his people to protest — and Assad, 46, responded by cracking down. He played on the fears of the ruling Alawite minority, businessmen and Syrian Christians to persuade them to stand by his secular ideology against the mainly Sunni Muslim uprising. As his father Hafez slaughtered thousands to preserve the regime in the 1980s, Bashar intends to prove he is the player in Syria to be placated — if only because he can kill most efficiently (TIME, 2012).
Title: UN Security Council Votes To Send 300 Observers
Date: April 21, 2012
Source: Russia Today
Abstract: The UN Security Council has unanimously voted to pass a resolution increasing the number of ceasefire observers in Syria to 300. Meanwhile, the first wave of observers reached war-torn Homs.
The resolution is aimed at enforcing a truce in the conflict between the Syrian government and the opposition, which was signed last week, but has been broken numerous times since.
The final text was a compromise between two rival versions of the resolution proposed by Russia and the European Union, achieved after hours of negotiation on Friday night.
The sides mostly disagreed over European demands that government forces should remove troops and heavy weapons from major urban centers before observers arrive, and face sanctions if they fail to do so. Russia had asked for no such conditions.
In the end the two sides agreed to go ahead with expanding the observer force, and review further action depending on how the situation unfolds on the ground.
“The resolution solidifies the consensus that has now formed in the Security Council,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN representative.
Churkin urged all sides in the dispute to follow the six-point plan formulated by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has played a key part in mediating the conflict. Other than peace, the plan calls for the release of political prisoners, freedom to demonstrate, and safe access for foreign humanitarian aid.
The French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said that the plan is “the last chance before civil war.”
After the Security Council vote, Churkin warned against a “Libyan scenario”, where a relatively tame original resolution text was used as a basis for military intervention.
The new ceasefire monitors will initially stay in Syria for 90 days, and will supplement the thirty observers who are already on their way to the Middle East country.
Despite the agreement being reached, the US still is not ruling out “other means” in dealing with the crisis. Political analyst Dan Glazebrook believes this is a coded, veiled threat of extreme violence. “They are still keen to promote this idea that they may conduct some kind of aerial bombardment, a kind of mass slaughter to help their proxies on the ground in order to keep the civil war going,” he told RT.
However, Glazebrook is optimistic about the UN mission and the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis. “The Syrian government has shown willingness to negotiate and made serious compromises in the constitutional amendments that were made recently. And more and more [of the] opposition are starting to see that way of thinking as well.”
heart of conflict
The handful of observers who are already in Syria visited the city of Homs on Saturday morning.
The city has been the focal point of the anti-government uprising since May last year, and the site of some of the conflict’s heaviest skirmishes, but there was no violence during the visit.
The team met with the governor and were then taken on a walking tour through the center.
"The Syrian government is facilitating the work of the observers,” Nidal Kabalan, Syria’s former ambassador to Turkey told RT. “They are being allowed to do their job.”
Meanwhile, opposition leaders claimed the government specifically stopped shelling Homs to impress the visiting monitors.
Syria's official news agency also said that 30 opposition members whose "hands were not stained with the blood of Syrians," were released on Saturday, in accordance with the Annan plan.
At least 9,000 people
have died in the Syrian conflict in the last year, according to the UN (Russia
Title: Uprising In Syria Raises Fear Of Chemical
Date: May 7, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: As the uprising in Syria continues to wrest control of the country away from Bashar al-Assad, the nations of the world are concerned about who will gain control of a secret stockpile of chemical weapons.
Syria is one of eight states that has not joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is believed that Damascus has the largest remaining stockpile of undeclared chemical weapons worldwide. The cache may include VX nerve agent and mustard gas, Reuters reports.
“The arsenal, based on reports, is quite alarming,” Ahmet Üzümcü, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said, according to Reuters. “If those reports are correct it would really take a lot of resources and efforts to destroy, to eliminate, those stocks.”
An OPCW official referred to Syria as the 800 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to the anti-proliferation organization. Üzümcü said that he could deploy a team within 12 hours for an inspection if the United Nations were to give the organization an order.
“The most dangerous possibility is that unrest in Syria degrades the state’s capability to maintain security to the point where not all the chemical weapons stockpiles are secure,” Ayham Kamel, the Middle East analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group, said, according toReuters. “The nightmare scenario is that they fall into the hands of al Qaeda. Syria could try to break the regional balance of power by supplying Hizbollah with an arsenal that could threaten Western interests.”
Fears of stockpiles
being obtained by Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas or the Taliban prompted Israel to
provide $20 million in governmental support to a gas mask factory to secure
production until the end of 2012. Approximately 60 percent of Israelis were
supplied with protective gear before the factory nearly closed due to financial
Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Expert: Syrian Weapons Could Be Obtained By Al-Qaeda
Date: May 15, 2012
Abstract: In an editorial for Ground Report, a former U.S. soldier and infantryman asks if the chemical weapons cache in Syria may be used by the Assad regime or be stolen away by al-Qaeda forces.
Robert Tilford, a former soldier and a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School in Georgia, writes that al-Qaeda members have created their own brigades in an effort to take over Syria and take advantage of a dangerous chemical weapons stockpile. The chemical weapons in Syria may include mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve gas, Ground Report reports.
“U.S. officials deny al-Qaeda is part of the rebel movement it is helping to arm and equip in some cases…but that is another story,” Tilford said, according to Ground Report. “The fact is the US has no good plan on what to do if Syria collapses, the military loses control or if Al-Qaeda manages to steal chemical weapons from one or all of the more than 50 suspected sites in that country.”
Tilford spoke with some intelligence agents who said that there may be more than 50 chemical weapons sites in Syria and that to safeguard all those facilities during an invasion, the United States would need at least 50,000 to 80,000 soldiers.
According to Tilford, if the Assad regime falls, the nation and its
network of chemical weapons may be likely to fall to extremists due to a lack
of an identifiable group ready to take over (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Israeli Army Fears That Syrian Chemical Weapons Could Reach Hezbollah
Date: May 23, 2012
Abstract: Yair Naveh, the Israeli deputy army chief of staff, expressed concern this week that Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal could be transferred to Hezbollah, which could impact not just Israel but the whole world.
Naveh made the statement at the 2012 Israeli Conference on Air and Land Jointness. He said that while Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, is still in control of the country’s advanced weaponry, the stockpile could be transferred to the militant group, ABNA reports.
“(The weapons) have already been transferred to the Syrians and may one day be transferred from Syria to Hezbollah,” Naveh said, according to ABNA. “The existence of these systems creates a reality in which the Israel Air Force will need several hours to first deal with the air defense systems before turning to other missions. The proliferation of these systems needs to concern not just Israel, but also the entire world.”
Naveh said that Syria has spent $3 billion in recent years on advanced surface-to-air missile systems developed by Russia. In addition, ground positioning system jammers could get in the way of Israel’s ability to hit targets in Syria, Gaza or Lebanon during future military conflicts.
Title: Blackwater Agents Involved In Syria Unrest: Political Analyst
Date: May 29, 2012
Abstract: The agents of the US company Blackwater are operating inside Syria and are involved in the deadly turmoil in the Arab country that began in March 2011, a political analyst tells Press TV.
“We have real evidence now that the Blackwater company is working in Syrian territories,” said Taleb Ibrahim, a political analyst from Damascus, in an interview with Press TV on Monday.
Ibrahim also stated that there is a “third party” inside Syria that “wants to undermine” the six-point peace plan put forward by UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan in March.
Over the past few months, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have expressed support for arming of the Syrian rebels.
The political analyst added that the third party seeks to “prevent any political resolution for the crisis in Syria.”
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.
While the West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of the killings, Damascus blames ''outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups'' for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.
Sporadic clashes between Syrian forces and armed groups continue in Syria despite a ceasefire that took effect on April 12, and was part of the Annan plan.
On May 25, clashes broke out between Syrian forces and armed groups in the town of Houla, located in the central province of Homs and about 32 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of the provincial capital city of Homs.
The head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said in a briefing via video from Damascus to an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday that the UN observers in Houla estimate 108 people were killed, including 49 children and 34 women (PressTV, 2012).
Title: Syrian Opposition Plans To Secure Chemical Weapons
Date: May 30, 2012
Abstract: According to a senior figure in the Syrian opposition, the rebels plan to take control of Syria’s chemical weapons depots and secure them in the hours following the collapse of the regime.
The leader, a former senior officer in the Syrian Army speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the opposition knows the locations of the chemical weapons stores and plans to quickly move to secure them, Haaretz reports.
“In addition to fighting the regime there are a group of us preparing for the chaos that we know will ensue on the day the regime is toppled,” the senior figure said, according to Haaretz. “We have committees dealing with a new constitution and elections, justice and the restoration of security. We have divided the aftermath into four periods with different priorities for each day. The first period is the first day, the first hours after Assad’s control breaks down, and one of the priorities during those hours is taking control of the chemical weapons so they won’t fall into the hands of terrorists.”
Israeli security officials have expressed concern that the weapons could be obtained by Hezbollah or other organizations with terrorist ties. Approximately 70,000 loyal soldiers are still fighting with the government against 30,000 soldiers fighting for the opposition. The opposition leader said that approximately one-third of the armed forces for Syria have defected and that Assad has been receiving advisory and technological assistance from Hezbollah, Iran and Iraqi fighters.
“Among other things, they have brought aerial drones that assist Assad’s forces with surveillance,” the opposition leader said, according to Haaretz. “They also opened up a slush fund with millions of dollars to help Assad buy more arms from the Russians. In the past, the Soviet Union sold Syria arms on credit, now they are demanding cash up-front on all arms deals and the money is coming from Tehran. Iran knows that if Assad falls, their entire power structure all the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon will also fall. But there is a limit to how much Iran will do to help Syria. They won’t send in army units to save him because they know this will be a cause for Israel to attack them” (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: West Could Have To Intervene To Seize Syria’s Chemical Weapon Stockpile
Date: May 31, 2012
Abstract: Western governments could be forced to gain control of the chemical weapons stockpile of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad before the deadly weapons become vulnerable to terrorists.
The chemical stockpile in Syria contains hundreds of tons of mustard, sarin and VX gas. A western diplomat said that while the 14 month uprising does not currently pose an existential threat to the regime of Syria, if the situation changes, the international community would have to step in to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, the Telegraph reports.
“We could not tolerate the possibility of some of that stuff falling into the wrong hands,” the diplomat said, according to the Telegraph. “This uprising is not an existential threat to the Assad cartel, but if it was the case that they were starting to lose the plot and it looked as if their ability to secure those materials was questionable, then I think you’d see more very serious worries coming out of the Security Council.”
Experts say that Syria has a chemical weapons program that dates back to the 1970s, though the country is not believed to have any biological weapons. Little is known about the full extent of Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile.
“It’s worrying because we don’t know,” Dina Esfandiary, a non-proliferation specialist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said, according to the Telegraph. “We don’t know exactly what Syria’s capability is. We don’t know how big their stockpiles are – or where they are. It would be difficult for everybody to secure them, particularly if factions within the country are fighting each other. The risk of the agents falling into the hands of non-state actors is quite worrying” (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Syrian Rebels Aim To Use Chemical Weapons, Blame Damascus – Report
Date: June 10, 2012
Abstract: The armed Syrian opposition has got their hands on chemical weapons, which they acquired from Libya, a media report claims. They allegedly plan to use it against civilians and pin the atrocity on the Bashar al-Assad regime.
The report by DamPress claims the opposition group in possession of the weapons is being trained in its use inside Turkey. No further detail on the alleged conspiracy is given.
The Libyan stockpile of chemical weapons was a matter of great concern during last year’s civil war in the country. There were fears that they may end up in the hands of the terrorists and used elsewhere in the world. However unlike Libya’s portable surface-to-air arsenal, no reports of the weapons going missing was made public.
Syria has a greater number of chemical weapons than Libya. Military experts say the agents in the Syrian stockpile are also more modern that what Gaddafi had produced for his military. Syria also didn’t join the Chemical Weapons Convention and is not obliged to declare what chemical weapons it possesses.
The chemical framing plot allegations comes days after British journalist Alex Thomson from Channel 4 news accused a Syrian opposition group of trying to set him and his crew up to be killed by government forces. He said a western journalist death would give bad publicity for Damascus.
Syria is sliding back into violence after a UN-brokered peace plan failed to bring the rival forces in the country to negotiation table. The worst of the incidents of renewed bloodshed were two massacres of civilians in the villages ofHoula and al-Qubair.
Opposition blame the killings on pro-government paramilitary forces, while Damascus says both incidents were provocations carried out by terrorist groups. The UN observer mission currently deployed in Syria failed to establish for certain who committed the atrocities.
The conflict in Syria has been raging for 15 months now, with the exact
death toll difficult to establish. UN estimates that about 10,000 people have
been killed in the violence (RT, 2012).
Title: Naveh: Israel Could Be Threatened By Syrian Chemical Weapons
Date: June 12, 2012
Abstract: Yair Naveh, the deputy military chief of the Israeli Defense Force, announced on Sunday that Syria had one of the biggest chemical weapons stockpiles worldwide and could use the weapons to attack Israel.
Naveh expressed concern that the attack could come to divert the attention of the world from the Assad regime’s killing of Syrian citizens. The military official said that if the regime had the opportunity it would harm Israeli civilians as well, Associated Press reports.
Naveh said that if the Assad regime fell apart, the weapons could be obtained by hostile rebel forces. Terrorist groups inside Syria may have gained access to chemical weapons already, Fars News Agency reports. The Iran-state sponsored news source claims that the rebels plan to use the weapons on the Syrian people and place the blame on the Syrian army.
Ayoob Kara, a Druze Knesset member, said that he has seen several videos showing chemical weapon use in Syria. Analysts with DebkaFile think that the international community will likely intervene in Syria if either side of the conflict proves to be using chemical weapons, Arutz Sheva reports.Israeli officials have called on the international community to intervene in the conflict and to hold Syria’s allies accountable for their connection to the killing of innocents (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: 'Iran, Russia, China, Syria Plan 'Largest' War Game'
Date: June 19, 2012
Abstract: Iranian media outlets reported on Tuesday that Iran, Russia, China and Syria are to conduct joint military exercises in Syria next month.
The semi-official Fars News outlet, which has ties to the Iranian government, cited "certain unofficial sources" in its report but did not say what those sources were.
The report appears to have originated on Arabic language Syrian media outlet ShamLife, which said the war-games were scheduled in less than a month's time.
Other Iranian media outlets, including the Revolutionary Guards-linked Mashregh News and Mehr News, which is owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, also carried the same report on Tuesday, but did not cite any Iranian official sources confirming it.
Fars admitted that there has as yet been no official announcement confirming the war-games, but cited an unnamed Syrian official had declared that a joint exercise between those four countries would be carried out "soon".
Preparations for those exercises would be carried out in the next few days, Fars quoted "informed sources" as saying, adding that the exercises would involve ground troops, air forces and naval forces.
Meanwhile, the ShamLife report said "sources" had confirmed previous leaks about the wargames, and that preparations for the military exercise were being carried out at an "accelerated pace".
According to ShamLife, China had gained Egyptian approval to allow 12 Chinese ships carrying military equipment to pass through the Suez Canal, and that these vessels would reach the Syrian ports of Tartous and Latakia in two weeks' time.
ShamLife said Syrian air defense missiles and its coastal defense would be put to the test in the military exercises, and that 90,000 troops from the four countries would be involved in the war games along with 400 aircraft and 1,000 tanks and "hundreds of rockets."
The exercises would be carried out after Syrian troops had "cleansed" several cities where "armed groups" - meaning Syrian opposition forces fighting against government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad - were gathering.
The Syrian opposition has frequently accused the Iranian regime of supporting Assad and providing his forces with material and equipment to suppress the revolution.
Meanwhile, Fars added in its report that no official sources from Syria, Russia, China or Iran had confirmed the war games would take place.
Fars also noted that in addition to the Chinese ships, Russian nuclear submarines and warships would also sail to Syria.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Russian media said Russian naval officials denied reports that its Black Sea Fleet ship, the Caesar Kunikov (BDK 64), a military landing craft home-ported in Sevastopol, had set sail for Syria.
RIA Novosti cited an unnamed Black Fleet officer as saying the Kunikov set sail for a routine test at a training base and was not headed to the Mediterranean.
According to RIA Novosti the same Fleet commander also dismissed reports in the Ukrainian and Western media reports that another Black Sea amphibious ship was headed to Syria carrying weapons and marines.
The commander said Western reports that Alligator class landing ship Nikolay Filichenkov was heading for the Syrian port of Tartous were false.
Tartous is home to a Cold War-era Russian naval supply and maintenance base, which was established in 1971 and still staffed by Russian naval personnel.
In July 2009, RIA Novosti reported that the Russian Navy planned to expand and modernize its Tartous base, the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean.
Also on Tuesday, the BBC reported that the UK had stopped a cargo vessel off the western coast of Scotland allegedly transporting Russian-made refurbished attack helicopters to Syria. British marine insurer the Standard Club canceled cover to the MV Alaed's owners after UK security services warned that the company would breach EU sanctions if it insured a ship carrying arms to Syria, according to the UK'sDaily Telegraph.
Last week, the US accused Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria to support Assad's regime, which Russia denied (JPost, 2012).
Title: British Insurer Cuts Coverage For Russian Ships
Date: June 19, 2012
Abstract: In line with EU sanctions, Standard Club cuts insurance for Russian ships suspected of ferrying weapons to Syria's Assad.
British insurer Standard Club, in line with European Union sanctions, has ended coverage of a Russian cargo line conducting business with the Syrian government, the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday. Among the newly-uninsured ships is the MV Alaed, which the report added, is hosting a large arsenal of weaponry purchased by the Syrian regime, including Mi25 attack helicopters.
"We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria," the Telegraph quoted Standard Club as saying. "We have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage."
British security officials said they were continuing to monitor the ship, which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed to be transporting weapons to Assad for use against Syrian rebels and civilians.
According to the Telegraph, the MV Alaed picked up its cargo, including the Mi25 helicopters nicknamed "flying tanks" from Kaliningrad Port in Russia.
Upon sailing en route to Syria, the ship was flagged down near the Dutch coast, whereupon it made an abrupt turn and headed for Scotland.
Moscow has been a main backer of the Syrian regime, providing embattled President Bashar Assad with extensive political coverage by deflecting international attempts to issue United Nations resolutions against the regime (JPost, 2012).
Title: Concerns Increase Over Syrian Chemical Weapon Stockpiles
Date: June 22, 2012
Abstract: Key western governments and neighboring countries are concerned about the fate of Syria’s major stockpile of chemical weapons if the regime of Bashar al-Assad should fall.
It is believed that the United States is making preparations to secure the deadly weapon stockpiles if the regime is toppled, but the details of such contingency plans are not known. What is known with greater certainty is the scale and scope of the country’s chemical weapons program, BBC reports.
“Syria has one of the world’s largest chemical weapon arsenals, including traditional chemical agents, such as mustard, and more modern nerve agents, such as Sarin, and possibly persistent nerve agents, such as VX,” Leonard Spector, the executive director of the Washington-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said, according to BBC. “Syria is thought to have a number of major chemical weapon complexes, some in areas of current conflict, such as the Homs and Hama regions. The bases are said to be guarded by elite forces, but whether they would stay at their posts if the Assad regime collapses cannot be predicted.”
Syria has never joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and as a result has never made any formal declarations of its weapon stocks. Another unknown in the situation is just how the weapons could be deployed.
“Conceivably, the Assad government could use some of these agents against rebel forces or even civilians in an effort to intimidate them into submission,” Spector said, according to BBC. “Or insurgents could overrun one of the chemical weapon sites and threaten to use some of these weapons, in extremis, if threatened with overwhelming force by the Syrian army.”
One of the most worrisome scenarios is the loss of control of the weapons to al-Qaeda or Hezbollah. Spector said that components of both terrorist organizations are operating in Syria as groups to challenge the power of the Assad regime (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Israel Expresses Concern Over Syrian Nerve Gas
Date: July 12, 2012
Abstract: Israel is worried that the regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria will deliberately give chemical weapons to Hezbollah, which could lead to a major regional war.
Syria is thought to have large stockpiles of the nerve gases sarin and VX, in addition to mustard gas. There are four sites where the agents may be produced, including Al Safira, Latakia, Hama and the Center for Study and Scientific Research laboratories in Damascus, Sky News reports.
There are also potential storage sites for the weapons at Palmyra, Masyaf, Hama, Furqlus and Khan abu Shamat. In addition, biological weapons may be stored at Cerin, which also may have facilities capable of producing bioweapons like anthrax and botulism.
“As for Syria, we all hear the news…(if) Syrians…behave this way to their people it is clear…how they will behave towards us – to our sons – when they get the opportunity against us, with the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the world, with missiles and rockets that cover all of Israel,” Yair Naveh, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force, said, according to Sky News.
Experts at the Pentagon estimated that a force of 75,000 troops would be required to secure the chemical weapons arsenal. There is little chance that such a force could be mounted, given tensions with Iran over its nuclear weapons program.“The truth is that no one has much of a clue what to do about Syria – it’s too well defended and too full of weapons of mass destruction to mean that there can be any meaningful military intervention,” a senior intelligence official, said, according to Sky News. “The Syrians may be doomed if Assad stays, and lots of others if he falls” (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: False Flag Alert: US Claims Syria “Moving Nerve Gas Out Of Storage”
Date: July 13, 2012
Abstract: Citing no evidence, and on the heels of yet another baseless “activist” report claiming a massacre has taken place in Homs, nameless US officials claimed to the Wall Street Journal that the Syrian government is taking chemical weapons out of storage for possible use “against anti-regime rebels or civilians, possibly in an ethnic cleansing campaign.”
Despite claiming to possess this information, the US officials refused to disclose the location these weapons were being moved to, nor the actual nomenclature of the weapons, stating only “they are most worried about Syria’s stockpiles of sarin gas.”
In mid-June, Russia Today had warned of a possible false-flag attack by NATO-backed militants operating under the cover of the so-called “Free Syrian Army” employing chemical weapons pilfered from devastated, militant-overrun Libya. The aim of the operation would be to create a justifiable impetus for overt Western military intervention, citing the use of chemical weapons against civilian populations as the most extreme attempt yet to manufacture otherwise nonexistent consensus for a repeat of NATO’s operations in Libya.
In, “WARNING: Possible NATO-FSA False Flag Attack in Syria,” it was explained how NATO’s militant proxies possessed not only the means and capabilities of carrying out such an attack, but the motivation and precedents of doing so – with the FSA already admittedly carrying out a deadly, nationwide terrorist bombing campaign killing scores of civilians per attack. The dissemination of Libyan weapons into the hands of militants operating in Syria has also been confirmed by governments and international media on numerous occasions, as has the factthat Libyan militants themselves (and here) have joined NATO’s covert operations to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The Syrian government has withstood over a year of withering, brutal attacks, economically, politically, diplomatically, throughout the Western controlled corporate media, and militarily by the West. One might then be troubled to fathom why the government would then use chemical weapons sure to provide the impetus needed to leap over the obstructions placed in the West’s way throughout the UN Security Council by Russia and China. The answer is simple, the Syrian government is not pondering the use of chemical weapons, NATO and its terrorist proxies are.This, along with a recent roll-out of preplanned, over-hyped “defections” seeks to psychologically stampede the Syrian government from power, and if necessary, create a pretext to do so militarily (Infowars, 2012).
Title: Syria Begins Transport Of Chemical Weapons
Date: July 16, 2012
Abstract: Syria has begun moving portions of its chemical weapons stockpile out of storage, according to officials with the United States.
It is not yet clear if the weapons are being moved as a safety precaution or for a more aggressive reason. Some analysts say that Bashar al Assad, Syria’s president, could use chemical weapons in an attack against rebel forces. Others say that Syria may be moving the arsenal to stop rebels from obtaining it, the New York Times reports.
“The truth is, we just don’t know,” a U.S. official said, according to the New York Times. “There’s a big gaping hole in what we know.”
Syria may have one of the largest undeclared biological and chemical weapon stockpiles in the world, which includes cyanide, mustard gas and sarin nerve agent. Some of the weapons have been moved near Homs, where some heavy fighting has taken place in the last few weeks.
“The Assad regime is losing control of its territory,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, according to the New York Times. “You don’t move this stuff unless you have to, and they obviously felt they had to move it.”According to Jeffrey White, a former intelligence officer at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, if the weapons are deployed to firing units, it may suggest they are being prepared for use. If the weapons are concentrated at a smaller number of secure areas, it would suggest they are being moved for security reasons, according to the New York Times (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Syria's Top Defector Says Assad Not Afraid To Use Chemical Weapons
Date: July 17, 2012
Abstract: As fighting continued for a third day in the capital of Damascus, the highest-level politician to defect from the Syrian regime warned today that President Bashar al-Assad would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if cornered.
During an interview with the BBC in Qatar, former Syrian Ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares was asked about Mr. Assad's willingness to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. "There is some information, unconfirmed information of course, that chemical weapons have been used partially inHoms," Mr. Fares said through a translator. "However, I have absolute conviction that if the circle of the people of Syriabecomes tighter on the regime, the regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons."
The BBC's Frank Gardner, who interviewed Fares, notes in a separate article that the ex-ambassador only offered his convictions as evidence of his chemical weapons claims. "I have built my opinion based on my knowledge of the regime's mentality and the government's mentality," Fares told Mr. Gardner.
Syria is thought to have the largest chemical arsenal in the Arab world, and the civil war has stoked international concern that the weapons could be seized by rebel or terrorist forces, or damaged and dispersed by the fighting, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
Hard data on Syria's chemical and biological warfare capabilities is scarce, but the country is believed to have one of the largest chemical agents stockpiles in the world, including VX and Sarin nerve agents. It also has an impressive number of surface-to-surface missiles, such as Scud-Ds which can be fitted with chemical warheads, and modern Russian anti-aircraft missile batteries, including portable shoulder-fired systems.
"This is unknown territory," says Charles Blair, senior fellow for State and Non-State Threats at theWashington-based Federation of American Scientists. "We have never been through the potential collapse via a very bloody ethnic civil war of a country that is likely armed with a very large stockpile of chemical weapons.”
On July 13, Assad's forces began moving chemical weapons out of storage facilities, according to US sources. Israeli officials believe this was part of an effort to secure the weapons, the Guardian reports.
"[The arsenal] is dispersed and under the control of a dedicated army unit that has a high degree of loyalty to the regime and is commanded by senior Alawites [Assad's sect]," said a senior official in Jerusalem. "It has not been involved in the nitty-gritty of fighting. It has been impacted by it but has not been used to fight the people. There are signs that Syria has understood the problem."
SES Türkiye writes that experts are divided on whether Assad would be willing to use chemical weapons. Kemal Kaya, a defense analyst at the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute, told the media outlet that Assad would likely refrain from their use for fear of "devastating retaliation" by NATO and Turkey. But retired Turkish Col. Atilla Sandikli noted that the fact that Syrian forces shot down a Turkish fighter last month suggests that Assad is not worried about the international community.
The concern about chemical weapons comes amid the more extended fighting in the capital city of Damascus. The Associated Press reports that Damascus quieted somewhat this morning after overnight battles, including the deployment of combat helicopters into the city. Reuters reports that regime forces have surrounded rebel areas, but have been unable to rout the opposition.
One fighter told Reuters the rebels were continuing their fight because they had no way to retreat to safer areas. "If they could leave, they would," he said.
Opposition activists said clashes close to the seat of government showed that rebels were chipping away at state power in a capital once seen as Assad's impenetrable stronghold.
"When you turn your guns against the heart of Damascus, on Midan, you have lost the city," said Damascus-based activist Imad Moaz. "The rebels in the street have the support of families across Damascus."
Former Ambassador Nawaf, in his interview with the BBC, also underscored the importance of the fighting in Damascus. "Of course, this has very big significance," he said. "The regime tried with all its powers to keep the capital out of this conflict and out of the reaches of the revolution. However, the expansion of the revolution and its power and its control in Syria is increasing day by day."There were also reports yesterday that the fighting in Syria briefly spilled over into Lebanon. The Daily Star writes that, according to security sources, a group of Syrian soldiers crossed the Syrian-Lebanese border last night and engaged in battle with an unidentified group in East Lebanon for about 20 minutes. One Syrian soldier was reported to have been found dead in the area (CSM, 2012).
Title: Jordan Preparing For Chemical Attack From Syria
Date: July 18, 2012
Abstract: Nasser Judeh, Jordan’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday that the country was preparing for the possibility of chemical weapon use in nearby Syria.
The mobilization by the neighboring country raises concern that Syria’s recently moved chemical weapons could be put to use. Syria started to move its chemical weapons out of storage facilities earlier in the week, though the reason for the move is unclear, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Judeh said that the issue of chemical weapons is of extreme importance to Jordan. He said that the country has taken all needed measures to confront the possibility of chemical warfare, though he did not mention specific measures taken, Associated Press reports.
Nawaf Fares, Syria’s ex-ambassador to Iraq, said on Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would consider using chemical weapons if he thought they were needed to end the armed insurrection. The Syrian conflict has led to an estimated 17,000 deaths, according to BBC.
Relations between Jordan and Syria have never been strong, but the Syrian unrest has led to a further breakdown in relations. Since the start of the unrest in March 2011, floods of Syrian refugees have spilled into neighboring Jordan. The country has taken in approximately 27,000 Syrian asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch reports (BioPrepWatch, 2012).Title: Syrian Defector Warns Of Chemical Weapons
Date: July 18, 2012
Abstract: The most senior politician to defect from the Assad regime since the beginning of Syria’s civil war recently said that the embattled leader would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if he felt cornered.
Nawaf Fares, the Syrian ex-ambassador to Iraq, said he has heard unconfirmed reports that chemical weapons have already been against the opposition, according to BBC.
“There is information, unconfirmed information of course, that chemical weapons have been used partially in the city of Homs,” Fares said, BBC reports.
The ex-ambassador said he would not rule out Syria using its extensive chemical arsenal should the regime continue to face mounting pressure. He likened Syrian President Bashar al Assad to a wounded and cornered wolf.
Neighboring countries and key Western governments share growing concerns as to the fate of Syria’s chemical weapons should the regime face imminent collapse. There are reports that the United States is preparing to secure at least a portion of the stockpile in an effort to keep it out of the hands of extremists, according to BBC.
The size and scope of the Syrian chemical weapons program presents an inherent difficulty in identifying, much less capturing, key facilities and storage sites.
“Syria is thought to have a number of major chemical weapon complexes, some in areas of current conflict, such as the Homs and Hama regions,” Leonard Spector, executive director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said, BBC reports. “The bases are said to be guarded by elite forces, but whether they would stay at their posts if the Assad regime collapses cannot be predicted.
“U.S. officials believe Syria’s chemical arms are stored in secure bunkers at a limited number of sites and have not been dispersed into the field.”
Beyond information provided by intelligence services, there is little detail available about Syria’s chemical weapons program. Unlike Libya, which was in the process of dismantling its program when the Qaddafi regime fell, Syria never signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and has never publicly declared that it possesses the weapons. Experts, however, agree that Damascus has amassed formidable stocks of various kinds of chemical agents.“Syria has one of the world’s largest chemical weapon arsenals, including traditional chemical agents, such as mustard, and more modern nerve agents, such as Sarin, and possibly persistent nerve agents, such as VX,” Spector said, according to BBC (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: U.S. Targets Senior Syrian Officials And WMD Companies
Date: July 18, 2012
Abstract: The United States sanctioned 29 Syrian government officials along with companies linked to Syrian proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.
In a news release, the Treasury Department said the officials included the Syrian ministers of finance and justice as well as the governor of the Central Bank and other members of President Bashar al-Assad's Cabinet who had not been designated.
"Today's actions reflect the unwavering commitment of the United
States to pressure the Assad regime to end the carnage and relinquish
power," said David S. Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and
financial intelligence. "As long as Assad stays in power, the bloodshed
and instability in Syria will only mount, and we will continue working with our
partners in the international community to ensure that the inevitable political
transition occurs as rapidly as possible."
The United States has sanctioned more than 100 Syrian individuals and entities, including the entire government, its Central Bank and oil companies.
The five companies targeted in Wednesday's action include entities that work with Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, which is responsible for developing Syria's stockpiles of biological and missile systems, and the missile delivery systems that service those weapons.
The center is owned by al-Assad's cousin Rami Makhluf, a billionaire industrialist and al-Assad insider already subject to U.S. sanctions.
U.S. officials said last week that there was evidence the Syrian government was moving its supply of biological and chemical weapons around the country. The existence of the weapons has alarmed Western officials, who fear that they could fall into the hands of extremists if the government loses control of them.
"We have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons, and that the international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
The actions taken Wednesday will freeze any assets of the designated individuals or entities hold in the United States and prohibit any individuals or companies from dealing with them (CNN, 2012).
Title: King Of Jordan Warns That Syria's Chemical Weapons Could Be Seized By
Date: July 19, 2012
Abstract: The king of Jordan warned Wednesday that his northern neighbour Syria was on the brink of all-out civil war and that in a worst-case scenario, chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda.
King Abdullah II told CNN a bomb attack that killed core members of the Syrian regime was a "tremendous blow" to President Bashar al-Assad but not yet the death knell for a regime that remains determined to cling to power.
"In other words, it's getting very, very messy to a point where I think the worst-case scenario for all of us in the region is when you get full-out civil war. There is no coming back from the abyss," he said.
Earlier, a bomb attack in Damascus killed key Syrian officials, including Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and General Hassan Turkmani, head of the regime's crisis cell on the uprising.
"Definitely this shows some cracks in the system, but again, I don't think we should jump to any conclusion writing the regime off in the near future," King Abdullah said, while warning time was running out for a political solution.
"I think as we continue to pursue the political option, the realities on the ground may have overtaken us. Therefore I think the clock is ticking," he said.
"I think we should continue to give politics its due. But if we haven't already passed that window, I think we're getting very close to it.
"If it breaks down, if civil order breaks down to the point of no return, then it will take years to fix Syria. And I have a feeling we're seeing signs of that over the past three weeks," he warned.
"The only people that can bring us back from that brink are obviously the president and the regime. And I believe this is the last chance they have," he said. "This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control."
Asked about reports that Syrian forces have begun moving chemical weapons stocks, King Abdullah said he was concerned that in the event of a descent into all-out war, the arms could fall into extremist hands.
"Our information is that there is a presence of Al-Qaeda in certain regions inside Syria, and has been there for a while," he told CNN.
"And, again, one of the worst-case scenarios as we are obviously trying to look for a political solution would be if some of those chemical stockpiles were to fall into unfriendly hands," he warned.
King Abdullah opposes international military action in Syria, but he said that if Assad were to make the "tremendous miscalculation" of turning chemical weapons on his own population, there could probably be a response.
And he said that if such weapons were to fall into the hands of rebel forces - some of which he said are unknown quantities - then even reluctant UN members like Russia might support some kind of international action.
But he said he remains hesitant to arm the Syrian opposition.
"As it comes to chemical weapons falling into rebel hands, I think at the end of the day all of us would suffer from that. I'm sure they would be very accepting of international actions," he said of Russia.
"But we want to make sure if you're going to send weapons, specifically weapons, we want to make sure it goes into the right hands and doesn't end up as I alluded to earlier on in the hands of groups like Al-Qaeda."
The United States also expressed concern about Assad's chemical stockpile, warning that any official involved in its use would face the consequences, and adding they had seen no sign of the regime losing control of them (Telegraph, 2012).
Title: Syria’s Next Act
Date: July 19, 2012
Source: The Daily Beast
Abstract: With the days and weeks of the Syrian government appearing numbered, the Central Intelligence Agency is scrambling to get a handle on the locations of the country’s chemical and biological weapons, while assessing the composition, loyalties, and background of the rebel groups poised to take power in the event President Bashar al-Assad falls.
Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast that the CIA has sent officers to the region to assess Syria’s weapons program. One major task for the CIA right now is to work with military defectors to find out as much information on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction, according to one U.S. official with access to Syrian intelligence. Another focus will be to sort through reams of intercepted phone calls and emails, satellite images, and other collected intelligence to find the exact locations of the Syrian weapons, this official said.
This task has become more urgent in recent days. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Syrian military was moving its chemical weapons out of storage. On July 17, Nawaf Fares, Syria’s ex-ambassador to Iraq, told the BBC the regime would not hesitate to use chemical weapons against the rebel fighters. On Wednesday, a bomb killed the Syrian defense minister and the brother-in-law of President al-Assad in Damascus. The blow to the al-Assad cabinet raised the prospect that the Syrian regime may be on its last legs.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, declined to provide details on what intelligence assets have been sent to Syria or to say whether the CIA has sent officers on the ground there. He said that the administration had recently deployed "the resources necessary to collect the information that we need to make a good decision on chemical and biological [weapons], opposition groups and leadership transition strategies." But, he added, "We don’t know nearly what we need to know to be completely effective if the regime were to implode tomorrow."
Syria never signed the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the treaty that bans the use, stockpiling, or production of chemical weapons. Steven Heydemann, a senior adviser for Middle East initiatives at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan think tank, said he understands Syria’s stockpiles to be “massive.”
Brian Sayers, the director of government relations for the Syria Support Group, a new lobby in Washington that is pressing the Obama administration to give guns and training to Syria’s opposition said, “We believe that if the United States does not act urgently, there is a real risk of a political vacuum in Syria, including the possibility of a dispersion of chemical weapons to rogue groups such as Hezbollah.”
Paula DeSutter, who served as assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation between 2002 and 2009 and is now retired, said biological weapons could be a bigger a concern. A 2011 State Department report on the compliance of countries with arms control and nonproliferation agreements said it "remained unclear" whether Syria would use biological weapons as a military option or whether Syria had violated the Biological Weapons Convention.
DeSutter also said she would want the U.S. and international community to secure any remaining nuclear-related equipment from the al-Kibar reactor destroyed in 2007 by Israeli jets. Also unclear is what, if anything, Iraq transferred to Syria before the 2003 U.S. invasion. “That is the wild card,” said DeSutter.
Whether or not sensitive weapons technology was moved to Syria is a hotly disputed question in the intelligence community. James Clapper, now the Director of National Intelligence and formerly the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, said in 2003 that he believed materials had been moved out of Iraq in the months before the war and cited satellite imagery.
Obama administration officials say the White House has yet to decide on how it will respond if pro-al-Assad forces use chemical weapons against the Syrian population or a neighboring country. The administration has told senior regime officials that they will be held responsible if they fail to secure chemical weapons.
DeSutter said the U.S. should remain vague about the exact consequences. “You could say we will target the president of Syria if they are used and we will target any military organization that used them,” DeSutter said. “I would let them wonder. You might want to drop the word ‘Israel’ in the conversation, too, as a subtle point.”
Hydemann said, “There is absolutely no question there has been a great deal of attention in different agencies of the government to the location and security of the chemical weapons stockpiles.” He says the U.S. has done some contingency planning on securing Syria’s borders as well as airports and sea ports to make sure sensitive weapons or terrorist and regime officials do not escape in the event of the regime’s collapse.
Other issues pending at the White House include who in the current Syrian government could remain in place if the regime falls and what the U.S. will do to protect Syrian religious and ethnic minorities.
While several government agencies and departments are drawing up contingency plans and drafting policy memos, the White House has ultimate control of the policy process and has yet to make a decision. “We are still waiting for red lines,” one Obama administration official who works on Syria issues told The Daily Beast. “This is a decision for the president.”
Up until now, the Obama administration has preferred to influence events in Syria from behind the scenes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has helped create a group of states known as “Friends of Syria” that seek a managed transition through financial support for the opposition. The State Department is also providing nonlethal aid to Syria’s opposition such as communications equipment. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has pushed for U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions targeting President al-Assad and his top aides. A resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria was vetoed Thursday by China and Russia at the United Nations (The Daily Beast, 2012).
Title: Israel: May Act To Stop Syria Arms Reaching Hezbollah
Date: July 20, 2012
Abstract: Israel said on Friday it would consider military action if needed to ensure Syrian missiles or chemical weapons did not reach President Bashar al-Assad's allies in Lebanon, the Shi'ite Islamist movement Hezbollah.
"I have instructed the military to increase its intelligence preparations and prepare what is needed so that ... (if necessary) ... we will be able to consider carrying out an operation," Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview on Channel 10 television.
"We are following ... the possible transfer of advanced munitions systems, mainly anti-aircraft missiles or heavy ground-to-ground missiles, but there could also be a possibility of the transfer of chemical means (weapons) from Syria to Lebanon," said Barak.
"The moment (Assad) starts to fall we will conduct intelligence monitoring and will liaise with other agencies."
Hezbollah, which in the past has received military and financial support from Syria and Iran, launched thousands of mainly short-range rockets into Israel during the Jewish state's 2006 offensive in southern Lebanon. Some longer-range rockets reached central Israel.
The Israel-Lebanon border has been largely quiet since then.
Israel has accused Hezbollah and Iran of carrying out a suicide bombing in Bulgaria on Wednesday that killed five Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, a popular gateway to the Black Sea coast. Iran has denied any involvement.
On Thursday, Barak toured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the Middle East war in 1967 and from where it can monitor movements inside its northern foe.
Syrian rebels assassinated four of Assad's closest aides in Damascus and
seized three border crossings with Iraq and Turkey this week, putting the Syrian leader under greater pressure than
at any time in the 16-month uprising against his rule (Reuters, 2012).
Title: Syria Moves Chemical Weapons Before Wider Offensive: Defector
Date: July 21, 2012
Abstract: A senior Syrian military defector said President Bashar al-Assad's forces were moving chemical weapons across the country for possible use in a military retaliation for the killing of four top security officials.
"The regime has started moving its chemical stockpile and redistributing it to prepare for its use," said General Mustafa Sheikh, citing rebel intelligence obtained in recent days.
"They are moving it from warehouses to new locations," he told Reuters in an interview in southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border. "They want to burn the country. The regime cannot fall without perpetrating a sea of blood."
Syria's 16-month conflict has been transformed since Wednesday, when a bomb killed four members of Assad's narrow circle of kin and lieutenants, including his powerful brother-in-law, defense minister and intelligence chief.
Sheikh's comments could not be independently verified and Syria has denied any such move.
Western and Israeli officials, concerned that chemical stockpiles could fall into the hands of militants, said a week ago that Syria appeared to be shifting weapons from storage sites, but it was not clear whether the operation was a security precaution or a preparation for deployment.
On Friday Israel said it would consider military action if needed to ensure Syrian missiles or chemical weapons did not reach Assad's allies in Lebanon, the Shi'ite group Hezbollah.
Sheikh, who fled his post in the northern command of Assad's army in January, said the coming days would see increased shelling of Sunni strongholds in Damascus and Aleppo.
But unleashing a broader and bloodier army assault would fuel an intense backlash by the mostly Sunni rebels, he said.
"The coming phase will witness a phase of bloodshed that is unprecedented and the regime will resort to non-conventional weapons. Every action will trigger a bigger reaction," he said.
"Assad wants to burn the country. This dictatorial and sectarian regime will not fall without a sea of blood," said Sheikh, whose military council provides a political umbrella to the armed resistance to Assad's rule.
Since Wednesday's attack, rebels have pushed into the heart of the capital and seized control of other towns. On Thursday, they captured three border crossings with Iraq and Turkey, the first time they have held sway over Syria's frontiers.
Sheikh said the success of Wednesday's bombing, which Free Syrian Army rebels claimed to have carried out, was the fruit of experience gained from months of conflict, rather than any fresh weapons supply.
"The weapons that are coming from outside are a drop in the ocean and are too trivial to make a difference," he said.
The success of Wednesday's attack surprised him, even though he was tipped by rebels over a month ago they were undertaking a top secret operation targeting Assad's inner circle.
"When I heard of it, I stood in awe that we had reached such a stage inside," he said.
"I was aware of it, but of course did not plan it, the rebels told me that there would be a qualitative operation that would go after the head of the regime in these days ... closer to the holy month of Ramadan," said Sheikh.
The perpetrator of the attack was "someone who worked with a top official ... the Free Syrian Army is present in every corner of the state", he said, declining to give any further details.
Sheikh said momentum gained by the rebels was prompting faster high-level defections and at least 100,000 soldiers have deserted out of the 320,000-strong military, almost double the numbers of only a few months ago. On Saturday a Turkish official told Reuters two Syrian brigadier-generals had fled to Turkey overnight.
Opposition sources have said thousands more Sunni soldiers have been confined to their barracks, but cannot desert because of the grip of military intelligence and lack of safe areas.
The involvement of the best trained elite forces from the Fourth Brigade to the Republican Army in the widening offensive showed the extent of attrition within the army, he said.
"Every day there is attrition ... the collapse of the regime is now
accelerating like a snowball," Sheikh said (Reuters, 2012).
Title: Syria Says Will Use Chemical Weapons If Attacked
Date: July 23, 2012
Source: Yahoo News
Abstract: The Syrian regime threatened Monday to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi stressed, however, that Damascus would not use its unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement comes as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead and threats by Israel to attack to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.
The timing, however, of Syria's decision to reveal the long suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold revolt that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a stunning bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.
"No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria," Makdissi said in news conference broadcast on Syrian state TV. "All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression."
The Syrian government later tried to back off from the announcement, sending journalists an amendment to the prepared statement read out by Makdissi adding the phrase "if any," in attempts to return to their previous position of neither confirming or denying the existence of unconventional weapons.
The regime subsequently blasted foreign media outlets for taking its remarks out of context and focusing on the announcement of chemical weapons instead of its attempt to "respond to a media campaign aimed at preparing international opinion for foreign intervention into Syria under the false pretext that it was going to use weapons of mass destruction inside the country."
Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas, Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including anti-tank rockets and late-model portable anti-aircraft missiles.
Israel has said it fears that chaos following Assad's fall could allow the Jewish state's enemies to access Syria's chemical weapons, and has not ruled out military intervention to prevent this from happening.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said Friday the Syrians have moved chemical weapons material from the country's north, where the fighting was fiercest, apparently to both secure it, and to consolidate it, which U.S. officials considered a responsible step.
But there has also been a disturbing rise in activity at the installations, so the U.S. intelligence community is intensifying its monitoring efforts to track the weapons and try to figure out whether the Syrians are trying to use them, the official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the still-evolving investigation.
Makdissi did not discuss last week's bombing claimed by the rebels that killed four top Syrian security officials, but assured journalists that the situation was under control, despite reports of clashes throughout the country and especially in the major cities of Aleppo and the capital Damascus.
"Yes, there were clashes on certain streets in certain neighborhoods, but the security situation is now much better. Everyone is feeling reassured," he said. "We are not happy about this, but this is an emergency situation and it will not last more than a day or two and the situation will return to normal."
Security forces appeared to show more government control in videos posted online by activists Monday. Some of the clips show Syrian militia sweeping through Damascus neighborhoods once held by rebels, kicking down doors and searching houses in mop up operations against the fighters that had managed to hold parts of the capital for much of last week.
It was a different story in Aleppo, however, where the Britain-based Syria Observatory reported fierce fighting in a string of neighborhoods, including Sakhour and Hanano, in the northeast of Syria's largest city.
Several videos posted by activists showed rebels battling regime tanks in the narrow streets of Sakhour. In one case, a tank on fire rumbles past after being hit by rebels as a man escapes from the flaming turret. Other videos showed cheering rebels celebrating around destroyed tanks, even driving around one they had captured.
The Observatory said many people fled these neighborhoods in the subsequent lulls in the fighting. The Associated Press could not independently verify the videos posted by the activists.
Aleppo, Syria's biggest city with about 3 million residents, has been the focus of rebel assaults by a newly formed alliance of opposition forces called the Brigade of Unification. The group said Sunday it was launching an operation to take the city.
Even as the government appeared to be reasserting control in the capital after the weeklong rebel assault, the Arab League offered Syrian President Bashar Assad and his family a "safe exit" if he steps down.
"This request comes from all the ... Arab states: Step aside," said Qatari Prime Minister Hamid bin Jassim Al Thani at an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Doha, Qatar, that concluded at dawn Monday. He urged Syria to form a temporary transitional government to plan for a possible post-Assad era. Makdissi dismissed the offer as "flagrant interventionism."
The Arab League has already suspended Syria's membership and it is
doubtful that Assad will pay much attention to their calls. He ignored a
similar request to step down in exchange for asylum by Tunisian President
Moncef Marzouki last February (Yahoo News, 2012).
Title: Syria Holds Out Threat Of Chemical Weapons Against 'Exterior
Date: July 23, 2012
Abstract: The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a part-reassuring, part-worrisome answer Monday to growing international concerns about the country’s substantial stockpile of chemical weapons.
No, a regime spokesman said, we will not use chemical weapons against other Syrians in the ongoing conflict. But foreign powers should know, the spokesman went on to say, that Syria might resort to these weapons to stop foreign intervention in the country’s internal affairs.
Coming less than a month after the Syrian military shot down a Turkish fighter jet that it said strayed into its airspace, the chilling warning was clearly intended to be taken seriously. The regime’s suggestion that it might use the weapons seems certain to intensify discussions among world powers, including the United States and Israel, of how to address the chemical-weapons issue.
As if in response to the mounting international concerns about Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi read a statement in Damascus Monday in which he said that the weapons “will not be used against Syrian civilians,” insisting that “they will never be used domestically no matter how the crisis evolves.”
But then he added, “Those weapons will only be used in the case of exterior aggression.”
The Foreign Ministry statement appeared to be Syria’s first official acknowledgment that it possesses chemical and biological weapons – although the government subsequently attempted to return to its traditional ambiguity on the question by inserting “if any” after the reference to chemical weapons in Mr. Makdissi’s statement.
The US has long affirmed that Syria holds major stockpiles of mustard gas and other chemical and biological weapons. Last week US officials disclosed that intelligence suggested the Syrian government was moving its stockpiles out of areas of heaviest fighting – a move that US officials saw as both positive and negative.
Moving the weapons to safer areas suggests the regime takes their possession seriously, but at the same time the need to move them underscored the regime’s slipping hold on power.
American military and intelligence officials have expressed concerns about Syria’s considerable stockpile of chemical and biological weapons since last year – and in particular over the threat that the weapons might go unprotected in an extended conflict and fall into the hands of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.
But concerns grew and indeed shifted last week to whether or not the regime might resort to using the weapons after a bombing that killed members of Mr. Assad’s inner circle suggested the regime is losing its grip on power.
Makdissi referred to the international focus on Syria’s weapons in the statement, drawing a comparison to Iraqand the US-led invasion in 2003 that was justified as a strike against Saddam Hussein’s supposed stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) but which resulted in the ouster of Mr. Hussein. He said high-profile discussion “aims to justify and prepare the international community’s military intervention in Syria under the false pretext of WMD.”
Answering one set of concerns about Syria’s weapons, Makdissi said the country’s “chemical or bacterial weapons" are “stored and secured by Syrian military forces.”
But his warning about the possible consequences of foreign intervention was worrisome, because it left open the question of just what form or degree of foreign intervention might trigger the use of these weapons.
In the statement, for example, Makdissi condemned the Arab League’s weekend call on opposition forces to form a transitional government as a “flagrant intervention” in Syria’s internal affairs.(CSM, 2012).
Title: Obama 'Very Concerned' About Safety Of Syria's Chemical Weapons After Latest
Date: July 23, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: President Obama on Sunday joined other world leaders in expressing heightened concern about the security of Syria’s chemical weapons amid increasing violence as rebel forces attempt to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The concern arose as the Assad regime threatened to use chemical and biological weapons if attacked by a foreign country, and a report that more than 100 people were killed Sunday as rebel fighters attempted to take control of border crossings and capture Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
The deaths, which included at least 24 government troops, bring the number killed to 19,000 since the unrest started this spring.
“Given the escalation in violence in Syria and the regime's increasing attacks on its own people, we remain very concerned about these weapons,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Carney also said Obama met Sunday morning with his senior national security team about the situation and that the United States continues to work with allies and Syrian opposition forces on a political strategy in which Assad “leaves power as soon as possible.”
The White House comments came just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed similar concerns.
Netanyahu told “Fox News Sunday” the Assad regime would likely fall soon, but that he is more focused on who would take control of the weapons.
He also attempted to clarify recent comments by the Israeli foreign ministry about seizing control of the weapons, saying alternatives exist but the possibility of the Assad regime not being replaced after falling should be a “common concern” among the U.S., Israel and other countries.
“In any case, we certainly don't want to be exposed to chemical weapons falling in the hands of Hezbollah or other terror groups,” Netanyahu said, “because that's something we can't be indifferent to.”
Though the Syrian government threatened to use weapons of mass destruction against an outside attack, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi stressed the government would not use its unconventional arms against Syrian citizens.
Syria's decision to reveal the long-suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold revolt that has scored a string of successes in the past couple of weeks, including a bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.
Britain and Germany also have called for increased pressure on Assad and his repressive government to leave power, including the extension of a United Nations sanction that could result in military intervention.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has seized on the Syria crisis as an opportunity to dent Obama's foreign policy credentials, painting him as weak and indecisive in the face of more than a year of violence. But Romney's general prescriptions for what he would do differently have opened him to criticism from the Obama campaign that he is weighing in from the sidelines with "nothing but tough talk" while the president does the real work of managing the crisis.
Also this weekend, rebel forces reportedly seized a Syrian Army infantry
school in the town of Musalmiyeh (Fox News, 2012).
Title: CIA Searching For Syrian Biological And Chemical Weapons
Date: July 23, 2012
Abstract: The United States has sent CIA officers to Syria to assess the country’s chemical and biological weapons program, according to a U.S. official with Syrian intelligence access.
The official said that CIA is attempting to debrief defecting military officers to get as much knowledge as possible about Syria’s biological and chemical weapons. The agency must also examine the caches of intercepted emails, satellite images and phone calls to determine exactly where Assad’s regime is hiding biological and chemical weapons, the Times of Israel reports.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, would not comment about the presence of CIA officers in Syria, but he has said that the Obama administration has taken recent action in the country.
“(The U.S. has deployed) the resources necessary to collect the information that we need to make a good decision on chemical and biological (weapons), opposition groups and leadership transition strategies,” Rogers said, according to the Times of Israel.
A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment on any Syrian missions.
Ehud Barak, the defense minister of Israel, said that the country is concerned that weapons would end up in the hands of Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based terrorist organization.“(Israel is watching out for) the possible transfer of advanced weapons systems, mainly anti-aircraft missiles or heavy ground-to-ground missiles, but there could also be a transfer of chemical capabilities from Syria to Lebanon,” Barak said, according to the Times of Israel (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Will Syria Use Chemical Weapons Against Foreigners?
Date: July 23, 2012
Abstract: Western states expressed alarm after Syria acknowledged for the first time that it has chemical and biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign countries intervene.
A week of unprecedented fighting inside the capital, Damascus, including a bomb attack that killed four of President Bashar al-Assad's closest advisers, has transformed the 16-month uprising and dramatically escalated international pressure on Assad.
Damascus residents said the capital was relatively quiet in the early hours of Tuesday after a day of fighting that saw government troops storm a neighbourhood.
Defying Arab foreign ministers who on Sunday offered Assad a "safe exit" if he stepped down, the Syrian leader has launched fierce counter-offensives, reflecting his determination to keep power as the uprising enters its most violent phase.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the army would not use chemical weapons to crush rebels but could use them against forces from outside the country.
"Any chemical or bacterial weapons will never be used ... during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments," Makdissi said. "These weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression."
Damascus has not signed a 1992 international convention that bans the use, production or stockpiling of chemical weapons, but officials in the past had denied it had any stockpiles.Washington and other Western capitals rushed to warn Syria against making any threats to use such weapons.
"Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching and that they will be held accountable by the international community and theUnited States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday.
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said warnings against using chemical weapons extended not only to the Syrian government but to rebels and any militants who might try to obtain them.
Britain, Germany and other countries also said it was unacceptable for Syria to say it might use chemical arms.U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was very concerned Syria may be tempted to use unconventional weapons.
Western countries and Israel have expressed fears chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups as Assad's authority erodes. Israel has publicly discussed military action to prevent Syrian chemical weapons or missiles from reaching Assad's Lebanese Shi'ite militant allies Hezbollah.
The Global Security website, which collects published intelligence reports and other data, says there are four suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria: north of Damascus, near Homs, in Hama and near the Mediterranean port of Latakia. Weapons it produces include the nerve agents VX, sarin and tabun, it said, without citing its sources.
Abdelbasset Seida, head of the Syrian National Councilopposition group, said, "A regime that massacres children and rapes women could use these types of weapons.
"The technical infrastructure may not be suitable, but as I said, such a step could be expected from this murderous regime. The international community must prevent this," he told reporters after meeting Turkey's foreign minister in Ankara.
Arab League ministers meeting in Doha urged the opposition and the rebel Free Syrian Army to form a transitional government, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told a news conference.
Makdissi rejected the call for Assad to step down as a "flagrant intervention" in Syria's internal affairs. "We regret that the Arab League stooped to this immoral level," he said.
U.S. officials said on Monday the Obama administration was shifting its focus from deadlocked U.N. diplomacy over Syria and preparing to provide additional communications equipment and training to help the Syrian opposition improve its command-and-control capabilities for coordinating its fighters.
Officials insist that Washington has no plans for now to send lethal weapons to Syria's rebels, a step the White House has publicly ruled out.
On Monday, the army shelled rebel forces in the northern city ofAleppo and stormed the southern Damascus neighbourhood of Nahr Aisha, breaking into shops and houses and burning some of them, activists said.
Video showed dozens of men in green army fatigues massing in the neighbourhood, which looked completely abandoned. Men carrying machineguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers knocked and then kicked down doors and climbed through windows.
Assad's forces have reasserted control over several Damascus areas since they seized back the central Midan district on Friday, 48 hours after a bomb attack killed four of Assad's closest security officials.
"The expectation that the regime is out of firepower or collapsing right now is misplaced."
But Assad's forces have lost ground outside cities, ceding control of four border posts on the Turkish and Iraqi borders.
Sky Television footage from the town of Azaz close to the border with Turkey showed rebel fighters parading through streets firing triumphantly after a prolonged battle with government forces.
In Aleppo, activists said thousands of residents fled the rebel-held districts of Al-Haideriya, Hanano and Sakhour after army shelling and clashes between rebels and government forces in which activists said three government tanks were destroyed.
A video posted by activists showed families crammed into taxis, vans and the back of trucks trying to flee. Dozens of other families set out on foot, carrying plastic bags with their belongings.
"This is a large-scale hit-and-run battle. The whole point is to bleed the regime dry. It is a very long fight, and it will be especially long in Aleppo," said a spokesman from the Islamist rebel group the Battalions for the Free Men of Syria.
The fighting in Damascus, Aleppo and the eastern city of Deir al-Zor has been some of the fiercest yet and showed Assad's determination to avenge last Wednesday's bomb attack, the most spectacular blow of the uprising.
Activists reported clashes on Monday in the Damascus districts of Qadam and Kafr Sousseh. Rebel sources say the guerrilla fighters in the capital may lack the supply lines to remain there for long and may have to make tactical withdrawals.
In the northeast district of Qaboun, where Assad's forces pushed fighters back in recent days, most streets were empty, said a resident reached by telephone who visited the area from another part of Damascus. A few people were returning to check on homes, some of which were destroyed.
"I came just to pick up some of my family's belongings, I am not returning for now," one woman told the visitor at her empty-looking four-storey building.
Groups of men were removing bodies from underneath the rubble of one building. "We have removed 25 bodies so far from this area, we are burying them quickly," one said.
An activist said 24 bodies had been found outside the capital in the Daraya district of the countryside on Monday, and that they appeared to be fighters who had been executed.
The accounts could not be verified independently; Syria restricts access by journalists.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which compiles reports from anti-Assad activists, said 1,261 people had been killed across Syria since last Sunday when fighting escalated in Damascus, making it by far the bloodiest week in an uprising activists say has claimed at least 18,000 lives (CSM, 2012).
Title: Chemical Weapons? Syria 'Backpedaling Furiously' Over Weapons Threats
Date: July 24, 2012
Abstract: Syrian rebels have accused the Assad regime of moving its chemical weapons to the borders, even as the Syrian government has been "backpedalling furiously" from its warning yesterday that it would use its chemical arsenal against foreign intervention in the civil war gripping the nation.
Agence France-Presse reports that the Free Syrian Army warned in a statement today that President Bashar al-Assad's government has been moving its chemical weapons to new locations along the Syrian border.
"We in the joint command of the Free Syrian Army inside the country know very well the locations and positions of these weapons," the statement said. "We also reveal that Assad has transferred some of these weapons and equipment for mixing chemical components to airports on the border."
"According to our information, the regime began moving its stocks of weapons of mass destruction several months ago ... with the goal of putting pressure on the region and the international community."
The FSA's statement comes as the Syrian government appears to be stepping back from yesterday's warning that the regime has a chemical arsenal that it will use against foreign intervention.
Yesterday foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi publicly acknowledged Syria's chemical arsenal for the first time, saying that “Those weapons will only be used in the case of exterior aggression.” Mr. Makdissi also said that the weapons “will not be used against Syrian civilians,” and that “they will never be used domestically no matter how the crisis evolves.”
But The Guardian writes that Syria's foreign ministry and information ministry have been "backpedaling furiously" from yesterday's statement, and speculates that Makdissi may have spoken out of turn. The Guardian notes that Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said that "When the foreign ministry spokesman says that Syria will not use chemical weapons against its people, then this doesn't mean that Syria has such weapons in the first place." And the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) claimed today that Makdissi's comments weretaken out of context "as a declaration of possessing non-traditional weapons."
The Ministry said that the goal of the statement and the press conference wasn't to declare but rather to respond to a methodical media campaign targeting Syria to prepare world public opinion for the possibility of military intervention under the false premise of weapons of mass destruction (similar to what happened with Iraq) or the possibility of using such weapons against terrorist groups or civilians, or transporting them to a third party.
The SANA statement suggests that the Assad regime may fear that acknowledgement of its chemical arsenal could incite, rather than deter, Western nations' intervention in the Syrian crisis. Western nations roundly criticized yesterday's statement, reports USA Today, and President Obama warned that Assad would be held accountable for use of Syria's chemical weapons.
"Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching – and that they will be held accountable by the international community, and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," Obama said.
Reuters reports that Israel believes that the Assad regimeremains in control of its chemical weapons. "The worry, of course, is that the regime will destabilize and the control will also destabilize," Israeli official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio. "At the moment, the entire non-conventional weapons system is under the full control of the regime."
But while Assad's chemical arsenal remains of prime concern, conventional guerrilla warfare continues on the ground in Syria. Col. Malik Kurdi, a Free Syrian Army spokesman, told The Washington Post that the rebels were forced to retreat fromDamascus because they lacked the weapons to maintain a prolonged, toe-to-toe struggle with regime forces.
“The Free Syrian Army is carrying out a war of harassing the regime army until it is exhausted, using guerrilla tactics,” he said, speaking by telephone from the military refugee camp in southern Turkey where the rebel leadership is based. “We can’t keep control of an area, so this is a circular operation, moving from one place to another, one city to another, to tire the regime out.”
And Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi told pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat that the Assad regime is set to fall, and that he would soon be traveling to Russia and China to encourage them to end their obstruction of UN Security Council action on Syria. "Our message to the Russians will be, with clarity and frankness, that the veto decision they took is viewed as being against Arab interests. We hope for a review of the matter, especially given that they know that the days of the current regime in Syria are numbered," he said (CSM, 2012).
Title: Israeli Military Chief Says Syria Stepped Up Chemical Weapons Security
Date: July 24, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Israel's military chief says the Syrian army has stepped up security around the country's chemical weapons stocks.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz did not offer details in his remarks Tuesday to parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee.
Gantz said the Syrian regime remains in control of its chemical weapons stocks and they haven't been raided by anti-Israel militant groups.
He added however that this could change.
His comments were relayed by a meeting participant who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose remarks made behind closed doors.
Israel is afraid militants like Lebanon's Hezbollah could seize Syria's chemical weapons should the central government in Damascus collapse.
In recent days, Israeli leaders have warned that they would be prepared
to attack the weapons depots to prevent that from happening (Fox News, 2012).
Title: Now Syria Raises The Spectre Of Chemical Weapons
Date: July 24, 2012
Abstract: The Syrian regime threatened to use chemical and biological weapons in the case of an external attack yesterday, in what appeared to be a chilling warning to Western and Arab nations pushing for intervention in the country's bloody civil war.
The comments by a foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, were the first public admission by the Syrian government that it possesses such weapons of mass destruction. Mr Makdissi stressed that such weaponry would not be used against the Syrian people.
"All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression," he said.
The Syrian regime is believed to be in possession of large stockpiles of sarin, other nerve agents, and mustard gas. Western officials have voiced concern over their safety and potential deployment in recent weeks.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, described the threat to use them as "unacceptable".
"This is typical of the complete illusion of this regime, that they are the victims of external aggression," Mr Hague said.
The Syrian government later said the comments had been taken out of
context (Independent, 2012).
Title: Report: Syria Plans Use Of Chemical Weapons If Attacked
Date: July 24, 2012
Abstract: The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad said on Monday that it would use its chemical and biological weapons if it was attacked.
Jihad Makdissi, the spokesman for Syria’s Foreign Ministry, said that the country would not use the unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement was the first acknowledgement that Damascus has weapons of mass destruction, Associated Press reports.
“No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria,” Makdissi said, according to Associated Press. “All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”
The regime later tried to backtrack from the position of having chemical and biological weapons and blasted foreign media for focusing on the announcement of admitting it has chemical weapons.
“(The announcement was meant to) respond to a media campaign aimed at preparing international opinion for foreign intervention into Syria under the false pretext that it was going to use weapons of mass destruction inside the country,” the regime said, according to Associated Press.
Syria is thought to have mustard gas, nerve agents and Scud missiles that could deliver the lethal chemicals.
The announcement comes after a rise in activity at military installations thought to contain the chemical weapons material (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Russia Warns Syria Over Chemical Weapons
Date: July 25, 2012
Abstract: Russia recently warned Syria not to use its arsenal of chemical weapons, saying it is obligated to follow a 1925 international protocol that bans the use of poisonous gasses in warfare.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Damascus ratified the 1925 treaty in 1968. Syria is not a signatory to the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, which is the major international treaty outlawing the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, according to Reuters.
At the time that the CWC was drafted, Damascus claimed not to possess a chemical weapons program. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi recently confirmed the program’s existence when he threatened that the al Assad regime would use chemical weapons against any foreign military intervention in the county’s ongoing civil war.
“The Russian side proceeds from the assumption that Syrian authorities will continue to strictly adhere to the undertaken international obligations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Despite warning, Moscow shows no sign of altering its support for Assad, even as Western governments continue to push for his ouster.“If the Syrian leadership is ousted from power by unconstitutional means, the leadership and the opposition will trade places and the civil war will continue,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, Time reports (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Russia Warns Syria Not To Use Chemical Weapons Stockpile
Date: July 25, 2012
Abstract: Russia warned Syria on Tuesday not to release its chemical and biological weapons if it is attacked by foreign nations.
Syria is Russia’s last ally in the Middle East and holds the country’s only naval base outside of the former Soviet Union. While Moscow told Damascus to stick to its international obligations, it gave no indication that it would abandon the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, ZeeNews.com reports.
Throughout the escalating civil war, Russia has protected Syria from international sanctions and has supplied the nation with weapons.
Syria released its first-ever acknowledgement that it has chemical and biological weapons on Monday.
Russia released a statement in response, reminding Syria that the country previously ratified a global convention banning chemical weapon use.
“(We expect Syria to) unfailingly honor its international obligations,” the statement said, according to ZeeNews.com.
While Russia has been critical of Syria, it has refused to support international calls for al Assad to step down. Russia and China vetoed a United Nations resolution on Thursday threatening al Assad’s regime with sanctions. A resolution was approved on Friday to renew a force of 300 people to act as a U.N. observer force in Syria for an additional 30 days.
The uprising in Syria has turned into a civil war that has killed more than 19,000 people. Russia said that foreign players should not get involved in the conflict and that it should be decided primarily by Syrians.
“If the Syrian leadership is ousted from power by unconstitutional means, the leadership and the opposition will trade places and the civil war will continue,” Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, said, according to ZeeNews.com (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: United States, U.N. Chastise Syria Over Threat Of Chemical Weapons
Date: July 25, 2012
Abstract: Recent comments by Syria about the country’s threat to use chemical and biological weapons against foreign aggressors have drawn rebukes from the United States and around the world.
President Barack Obama warned Syrian leader Bashar al Assad that he would be held accountable if he used the deadly weapons. Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, also expressed concern about the threat, MWC News reports.
“It would be incomprehensible if anyone in Syria would use weapons of mass destruction,” Ki-moon said, according to MWC News.
Syria made the statement during a Monday news conference in Damascus. Jihad Makdissi, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, said that the country would not use the weapons against rebels.
“Any stocks of WMD or any unconventional weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses would never, would never be used against civilians or against the Syrian people during this crisis at any circumstances, no matter how the crisis would evolve, no matter how,” Makdissi said, according to MWC News.
Makdissi was the first to confirm that Syria had chemical and biological weapons, though it had been previously speculated by weapons experts.
France, Britain and the European Union also released statements regarding the chemical weapons threat posed by Syria.“The EU is seriously concerned about the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria,” the ministers of the European Union said, according to MWC News (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Analysts Weigh In On Assad Chemical Threat
Date: July 26, 2012
Abstract: Diplomats and analysts are voicing their opinions on the recent announcement by the Syrian regime that chemical weapons are present in the country and could be used against foreign aggressors if necessary.
Salman al-Shaikh, a representative of the Brookings Doha center, said that the announcement may be an attempt by the regime to dispel international alarm that could lead to outside intervention to secure the chemical arsenal, Reuters reports.
“They have a keen instinct for regime survival and this is an issue which didn’t play well for them, which would really bring serious consequences, not the type of stuff we have been seeing so far from the international community,” Al-Shaikh said, according to Reuters. “I think they wanted to move quickly to take us away from that, to reassure in many ways. This regime is capable of anything, but in this case it felt there may well be consequences, that they are perhaps crossing some red lines.”
One Western diplomat said that while warnings have come of consequences that could occur if Syria used its chemical arsenal, it has been the advice of Russia that has made the most impact. Russia is Syria’s main international ally.
“There was talk of them using it two weeks ago, but the Russians intervened quickly to stop him,” the diplomat said, according to Reuters. “If you think how desperate these people are and what they have done in the past, you have to assume they would be prepared to use it. All of us think he (Assad) is capable of using it and will do it if he was pushed to the wall. The Russians got hold of (Assad) and told him ‘don’t even think about it.’”
Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, suggested that Russia has been working with the United States and other countries to attempt to safeguard the proliferation of chemical weapons.
“I think Russia is working with everyone, with America first of all…Putin met the Turkish prime minister, he was in Israel, and is in constant contact with the Americans,” Trenin said, according to Reuters. “Of course, nobody wants chemical weapons to be used, let alone to get into the hands of terrorists.”
While the worst-case scenario could involve a chaotic downfall with rebels and militants seizing chemical weapons, observers think that chemical weapon use is not imminent.“We cannot rule it out but we are probably some ways away from that scenario,” a diplomat said, according to Reuters (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Syria's Chemical Weapons: How Secure Are They?
Date: July 26, 2012
Abstract: As Syria slides into ever worsening violence and parts of the country begin to slip out of control of the state, Syria's chemical and biological weapons arsenal, air defense systems, and ballistic missiles could be up for grabs – a potential bonanza for radical militant groups and a massive challenge for the West in attempting to check proliferation.
Hard data on Syria's chemical and biological warfare capabilities is scarce, but the country is believed to have one of the largest chemical agents stockpiles in the world, including VX and Sarin nerve agents. It also has an impressive number of surface-to-surface missiles, such as Scud-Ds which can be fitted with chemical warheads, and modern Russian anti-aircraft missile batteries, including portable shoulder-fired systems.
"This is unknown territory," says Charles Blair, senior fellow for State and Non-State Threats at the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists. "We have never been through the potential collapse via a very bloody ethnic civil war of a country that is likely armed with a very large stockpile of chemical weapons.”
Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Conventionand denies having a chemical or biological weapons programs. But Western intelligence agencies believe Syria began developing a nonconventional arsenal in the 1980s with the assistance of the Soviet Union in a bid to achieve strategic parity with arch-enemy Israel.
They believe Syria has amassed sizable quantities of blistering agents, such as mustard gas – widely used in World War I and in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war – as well as Sarin and VX. The chemical agents are designed to be fitted to an array of delivery systems, from Scud-D short-range ballistic missiles to a projectile as small as an artillery shell.
Syria also is suspected of having a biological warfare program, possibly involving anthrax, although few details are known and the scale is thought to be small.
According to a recent report by the US-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, there are five identifiable chemical agent manufacturing plants in Syria. They are located in the following areas: Al Safir, southeast of Aleppo; Latakia, on the Mediterranean coast; near Dumayr, 16 miles northeast of Damascus; Khan Abu Shamat, 22 miles east of Damascus; and Al Furqlus in Homs province.
Diplomats and analysts interviewed for this article estimate that there are several dozen additional storage sites scattered across the country, some of them in hardened underground bunkers dug into the sides of hills, complicating efforts by Western intelligence agencies to identify the facilities and draw up plans to secure or destroy them.
"There are a significant number [of sites] large enough to make it a significant problem," says a Western diplomat with access to intelligence data. "[But] Some who are a little closer to the problem with a more urgent interest have a very good idea where they are," the diplomat added, in a veiled reference to Israel.
Scud missiles Tipped with Warheads on its Border
Israel has been watching the escalating violence in Syria with growing alarm. Even though the Assad regime is a close ally of Iran and the militant Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah, Syria's border with Israel in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights has been dormant for almost 40 years under the Assads. Israel, already worried at a deteriorating security situation along its southern border with Egypt, now also faces the possibility of its enemies in the north acquiring chemical weapons or ballistic missiles.
"Syria today is the largest chemical-weapons stockpile in our region," Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army, told Israel's Hayom newspaper two weeks ago. "These missiles can reach every point in Israel, so we must not relax our vigilance."
Israel worries that Hezbollah in Lebanon may acquire Scud missiles perhaps tipped with chemical warheads to enhance its deterrence posture against Israel.
In April 2010, Israel claimed that Syria had transferred control of some Scuds to Hezbollah at military depots near Damascus, although there were conflicting reports as to whether any of the missiles had been smuggled across the border into Lebanon.
Recent reports in the Israeli media have addressed the threat again. Israel says it regards Hezbollah's acquisition of Scuds as a "red line" requiring a response.
Hezbollah's leadership regularly boasts that nowhere in Israel is beyond the reach of its rocket arsenal, which certainly would be true if the Shiite movement had acquired Scud-D missiles, which have a range of about 435 miles.
But while Hezbollah's rocket arsenal is widely believed to have expanded in quantity and quality since the month-long 2006 war with Israel, some analysts question whether Hezbollah would seek Scud missiles because of the logistical complexities involved.
Smuggling the 37-foot missiles into Lebanon along with their even larger dedicated mobile launcher and storing them safely and in secret would be a formidable undertaking. Furthermore, unlike Hezbollah's arsenal of solid-fueled artillery rockets, which can be quickly set up and fired, Scuds are liquid-fueled which entails a complicated and lengthy launch preparation procedure leaving the batteries vulnerable to being spotted and attacked.
Increased Activity at Known Missile Storage Sites in
Western diplomatic sources contacted for this story say that increased activity has been detected at Syrian military bases where Scud missiles are stored, including the movement of rockets, the construction of new underground bunkers and the expansion of existing facilities. The diplomatic sources assess that the activity is a sign that the Assad regime is attempting to safeguard its ballistic missiles to prevent them falling into the hands of the armed opposition.
The hills on either side of the highway linking Damascus to Homs contain numerous underground military bases. Some of them, such as those near Adra, Dumayr, and between Al Qastal and An Nasrriyah, are widely believed by military analysts to be missile storage and launch sites. The protected entrances to the underground tunnels are clearly visible on satellite images carried by the Google Earth portal. Another underground facility appears to be under construction six miles south west of Al Qastal, with at least six new tunnel entrances. (See map, top left.)
Still, even if Hezbollah has acquired Scud missiles, the organization has not fired a shot at Israel in six years and analysts believe it does not seek a renewed confrontation at the present time. That restraint does not necessarily apply to Al Qaeda, however.
Al Qaeda has been seeking chemical and biological weapons since at least the late 1990s. Documents seized by US troops in Afghanistan in 2001 indicated that Al Qaeda was working on acquiring weapons of mass destruction, possibly attempting to weaponize biological agents. In 2009, a British tabloid reported that an Al Qaeda group in Algeria was forced to abandon a training camp after experiments to weaponize bubonic plague led to the deaths of 40 militants.
Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent Al Qaeda ideologue who was killed last September in a drone missile strike inYemen, was posthumously quoted in a recent edition of Al Qaeda's English-language Inspire magazine as condoning the use of chemical and biological weapons.
"The use of poisons or chemical and biological weapons against population centers is allowed and strongly recommended due to its great effect on the enemy," Mr. Awlaki was quoted as saying.
The extent of Al Qaeda penetration into Syria is unclear, although there are indications that elements of the armed opposition – Arab volunteers and Sunni Syrians alike – are becoming radicalized and adopting distinct religious and Islamist rhetoric, with many hailing the campaign to unseat the Assad regime as a "jihad."
Analysts say that some chemical agents, such as mustard gas, or biological agents, such as the causative agent for anthrax, are relatively robust and therefore potentially easier to weaponize by nonspecialist militants.
"Violent nonstate actors could come across weaponized artillery shells and through trial and error, and probably some unnecessary deaths through handling the agents, they could figure out enough to be able to use certain agents in ways that could cause great harm," says Mr. Blair of FAS. He added that a "wild card" in such a scenario is a Syrian military chemical/biological warfare expert selling his expertise to militants to facilitate exploiting the agents for attacks against civilian targets.
Few Good Options for
There are few good options facing the West in preventing chemical weapons falling into the hands of Al Qaeda-linked groups. In February, CNN cited a Pentagon report as estimating that it could take 75,000 troops to secure Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, an undertaking that meets with little enthusiasm in the West. Assuming that all the storage facilities can be identified in the first place, an alternative option of preemptive air strikes also carries dangers given Syria's extensive array of anti-aircraft missile systems.
“Air strikes against chemical weapons facilities means you first have to take out the Syrian air defense network. It would require a full coalition for something of this scale and will be very difficult," says a senior European military officer.
The proliferation threat is not limited to chemical and biological agents and ballistic missiles. The US mounted an intensive program in Libya last year to prevent the spread of MANPADS – portable shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile systems which could be used by militants to shoot down passenger jets. Syria has a large number of Russian MANPADs that are equally vulnerable to proliferation.
"If the Syrian government collapses, there is a risk that Syrian weapons would flow into volatile regions like Lebanon, Turkey, and Kurdistan," says Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher of the arms transfers program at theStockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden. "The situation in these countries is very different from North Africa [and the Libya case]... Still it would be good if the international community prepares itself in advance and not afterward as in the case of Libya."
Ultimately, however, given Western reluctance to mount a full-scale invasion of Syria to secure WMDs and prevent weapons proliferation, it is almost certain that some armaments including chemical or biological agents will be lost, analysts say.
"Even in the most spectacular definitions of success, I would find it very hard to believe that when an inventory is finally able to take place that some of the agents had not gone missing," says Mr. Blair (CSM, 2012).
Title: As Assad Teeters, Israel Prepares For Battle To Secure Chemical Weapons
Date: July 28, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: As Syria's regime teeters on the brink of collapse, Israeli soldiers and civilians alike are preparing for possible military action to make sure Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons don't fall into the hands of terrorist groups.
Sources close to the Israel Defense Force told FoxNews.com soldiers have been put on standby and are ready to move, while civilian demand for gas masks has jumped 66 percent over the last few weeks from 2,200 to 3,700 per day. The fears center around the prospect of Hezbollah getting Syrian chemical weapons as the Assad regime shows imminent signs of collapse.
“Israel...will not hold back and will respond decisively if this happens,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.
Hezbollah, (the Islamic militant group based in south Lebanon, supported by both Syria and Iran), who has long called for the destruction of Israel, is the prime candidate to take possession of the armaments. Speculation is mounting about when and how Israel will deal with the prospect of chemical weapons being spirited away during the chaos of Assad's likely fall.
“It appears the IDF may seek to eliminate Syria’s ability to transport the weapons to proxy forces but not to eliminate the actual weapons themselves by striking at storage facilities," Idan Kweller, political correspondent for Israel Army Radio, told FoxNews.com. "Israel’s main interest is to ensure the weapons are not passed on to the likes of Hezbollah in south Lebanon.”
The potential breakdown of the Syrian regime has reportedly paved the way for any number of Islamist terror groups, including Al Qaeda, to blend in with the Free Syrian Army, giving them cover to get at the a chemical weapons stockpile Assad acknowledges having. That could potentially pose a massive threat to Israel’s security and inflict significant civilian casualties, according to experts.
Meanwhile, the race to locate the chemical weapons has reportedly been taxing a number of international security agencies, including the CIA, desperate to ensure the arms won’t fall into the wrong hands and spark an all-out regional war. One report suggested that a group of Jordanian commandoes had been sent into Syria to try and recover the weapons, while Turkey’s intelligence agency is another with good reason to fear unaccounted for weapons.
Earlier this week, Turkey, nervous of growing activity from Kurds in western Syria, mobilized troops and missile batteries to the border, further ratcheting up tensions in the region against their former ally. Earlier on Thursday, Turkish newspaper Zalman reported officials speaking optimistically of Turkey’s “commitment to preserving warm relations with Israel,” a significant change in tone from the antagonistic relationship on both sides in recent years and a follow on from the up-beat visit of a Turkish delegation to Jerusalem who met with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu a day earlier.
Kweller believes Israel and Turkey could well be on the verge of setting aside recent disputes to jointly focus on the danger a de-stabilized Syria poses them both.
With increased reconnaissance of the region set to dictate the next move, the Israeli public is holding its breath to see exactly what Netanyahu and his advisors will do next. They may hold back until the last possible moment in an effort to be seen as doing everything to keep the lid on the region, or they could move proactively. The IDF and the public don't know yet, but their jitters are real (Fox News, 2012).
Title: Israel Defense Minister Sees No Threat Of Chemical Attack
Date: July 30, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Israel's defense minister, in an apparent allusion to Syria, says that no country in the world would "dare" to attack the Jewish state with chemical weapons.
Ehud Barak told Israel Radio on Monday that he's so sure that an attack won't happen that he's willing to turn in his government-issued gas mask.
Last week, Syria threatened to unleash chemical and biological weapons if it faces a foreign attack -- a threat widely believed to have been directed at Israel.
Israeli leaders, including Barak, have indicated they would attack
Syrian arms depots to keep anti-Israel militants from getting their hands on
chemical weapons should the Syrian regime collapse (Fox News, 2012).
Title: Israeli Defense Minister Foresees No Chemical Attack
Date: July 31, 2012
Abstract: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently said that he is certain that no country would attack the Jewish state with chemical weapons.
Barak, in an apparent reference to Syria, said that he is so sure an attack is not forthcoming that he is willing to turn in his government-issued gas mask, according to Associated Press.
Last week, Syria threatened to use chemical and biological weapons if it faces a foreign attack. The threat is widely believed to have been directed towards Israel. Israeli leaders, including Barak, have indicated their willingness to attack Syrian arms depots in order to keep militants from acquiring Syria’s stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.
“In the moment we see that the Syrians transfer chemical and biological weapons to Hezbollah, this is a red line for us and from our point of view it‘s a clear ‘casus belli,’” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, IsraelNationalNews.com reports.Retired Israeli general Shlomo Brom joined several other experts in downplaying the risk posed by Syria’s strategic weapons, despite the Israeli government’s warnings. Brom said that the components of chemical weapons and their delivery systems are usually held in various locations and that it would be difficult for small groups to collect and assemble them, according to CBSNews.com (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Report: Syria Used Iran’s Help To Expand Chemical Weapons Stockpile
Date: July 31, 2012
Abstract: Syria grew its chemical weapons supply in recent years with help from Iran and with the use of front organizations to buy equipment, according to a recently released report.
The increase in the country’s arsenal allegedly took place despite attempts by Western countries to block the sale of dual-use technology and precursor chemicals to Damascus, the Washington Post reports.
A cable from 2006 recounts a presentation from German officials to the Australia Group, an informal forum for 40 nations, in addition to the European Commission meant to protect the spread of chemical weapons. The cable described the cooperation between Syria and Iran on the development of a new chemical arsenal.
“Iran would provide the construction design and equipment to annually produce tens to hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin, and mustard (gas),” a U.S. diplomat said in the cable, according to the Washington Post. “Engineers from Iran’s DIO (Defense Industries Organization) were to visit Syria and survey locations for the plants, and construction was scheduled from the end of 2005-2006.”
In addition, documents as recent as 2010 show the European Union providing $14.6 million worth of equipment and technical assistance to the Syrian Ministry of Industry. Some of the assistance was meant for chemical plants. Spot checks on how the equipment was used were stopped in May 2011 when the EU imposed sanctions on Syria.
Records have also shown the purchase of chemical weapon precursors by Syria.
James Quinlivan, the senior operations research analyst at the RAND Corporation, said that it was difficult to prevent Syria from developing its chemical arsenal.“Certainly a lot of equipment is obviously dual use: A lot of equipment bears a close similarity to that in a pesticide plant,” Quinlivan said, according to the Washington Post. “You can see that there’s a large overlap between civilian and military uses. The person selling chemicals does not have to know they’re selling chemicals for military use: Basic precursors have hundreds of uses. For the country building the program, it’s like high school chemistry — how simple do you want your ingredients to be? How many steps can you take toward a chemical weapon? I think you do have to credit Syria with the ability to assemble a weapon from precursors” (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Dire Shortage Of Medicine Reported In Syria As Clashes Escalate
Date: August 7, 2012
Source: LA Times
Abstract: Escalating violence in Syria has shut down pharmaceutical plants, piling another worry onto the woes facing the Syrian people: Severe shortages of medicine.
The World Health Organization warned Tuesday that growing clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and opposition fighters around the cities of Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo have damaged and closed many of the local plants that make the vast majority of medicines. The country produces most of its own pharmaceuticals.
Drugs to treat tuberculosis, hepatitis, diabetes and other maladies are urgently needed, along with chemical reagents to screen blood before it can be used for infusions for trauma and surgery patients, according to reports received by the United Nations agency.
The shortages add to the existing frustrations facing medical agencies trying to help the wounded. Just getting to the injured is the main challenge, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. Hospitals and clinics in battle zones have been closed or are impossible to reach. Hundreds of ambulances have been lost.
Physicians for Human Rights has complained that both rebels and government forces have attacked hospitals and clinics, jeopardizing the safety and neutrality of medical personnel. Doctors and medics have reportedly been targeted, threatened and even tortured by the Syrian government, according to rights groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International.
“Medics and first-aiders working amid unrest and conflict take enormous risks to provide immediate lifesaving care to the injured and evacuate them to safety. In Syria such risks are magnified by a government policy to target medical personnel and to exact retribution against them,” Amnesty International senior crisis response advisor Donatella Rovera said in June.The WHO is supporting mobile medical clinics and outreach services and helping to procure hygiene kits and other needed supplies, it said Tuesday. It has been working with the Syrian Ministry of Health as well as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other groups (LA Times, 2012).
Title: Jordan Warns Of Chemical Threat From Syria
Date: August 8, 2012
Abstract: King Abdullah II of Jordan warned this week that the failure to solve the Syrian conflict is bringing the possibility of chemical weapon use closer and closer to the front.
Abdullah expressed concern that the chemical weapons could end up in terrorist hands if the situation is not resolved by the end of 2012, Trend reports.
“What scares us most is weapons falling into the wrong hands,” Abdullah said, according to DPA.com. “The clock is ticking on a political transition and if we don’t find ourselves a way out by the end of the year, then you are going to see a spike in sectarian violence and I think it’s going to be a full-out civil war and I think calamity for years to come.”
Additionally, Abdullah said that even if Bashar al Assad is forced from the country, the system may not be able to support a peaceful existence.
“If he does go, by whatever means, I don’t see that the system around him is capable of changing,” Abdullah said, according to CBS.Recent actions by Jordan, including an ongoing policy of granting asylum to high profile defectors of Assad’s regime, may show that Jordan is changing its neutral stance toward the conflict (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: U.S. Works With Israel, Jordan, Turkey To Prepare Against Chemical
Attacks From Syria
Date: August 13, 2012
Abstract: The United States set up joint military, intelligence and medical working teams last week with Israel, Turkey and Jordan in order to lay plans for the contingency of Syrian chemical warfare.
Israel, Turkey and Jordan are all feared under threat by Syrian president Bashar al Assad, according to DEBKAfile.
According to the White House, CIA and Pentagon, all three countries may be under the threat of a potential unconventional attack. Each country’s medical services have begun preparation for a possible chemical attack.
The United States and France have delivered special forces trained in chemical warfare, military hospitals and hundreds of tons of medical equipment to Jordan, a country that lack the appropriate medical facilities. Washington is also concerned that American military and strategic interests in all three countries may be in danger, DEBKAfile reports.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed a chemical war scenario during a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.
“We need to get into the real details of such operational planning and it needs to be across both our governments (U.S. and Turkey). Our intelligence services and our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play, so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that. We have planned for many contingencies, including the very horrible scenario of the use of chemical weapons,” Clinton said, DEBKAfile reports.The working group she announced for the U.S. and Turkey will also be replicated between the U.S. and Israel and the U.S. and Jordan (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Al-Qaeda Flags Fly Over Rebel-Held Syria
Date: August 14, 2012
Source: Asia Times
Abstract: There has recently been a small stir in the American media, as media organizations from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Associated Press have finally gotten around to acknowledging a "presence" of al-Qaeda and like-minded jihadist groups among the Syrian rebel forces seeking to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
It is difficult to see what the cause of the excitement is. After all, such a presence has been blindingly obvious for many months: whether as a result of the dozens of suicide attacks that have
plagued Syria or the numerous videos that have emerged showing rebel
forces or supporters proudly displaying the distinctive black flag of
But observations made by German journalist Daniel Etter during a recent visit to rebel-controlled towns near the embattled city of Aleppo suggest that there is no mere "presence" of jihadists among the rebels: religiously-inspired mujahideen is what the rebels are. The real question is whether there is a presence of anything else. Etter's report, which appeared in the leading German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, also provides evidence that rebel authorities are subjecting civilians to arbitrary detention and torture and summarily executing captured members of the regular Syrian armed forces.
In the town of Maraa, north of Aleppo, Etter saw some 120 prisoners, apparently civilians, "herded into a large classroom" in what had previously been a school. Many of the prisoners showed signs of abuse. The prison director, whom Etter identifies only as "Jumbo," refused to allow Etter to speak with them alone. Etter notes that Jumbo "looks like his name." "Jumbo is not someone with whom you would like to pick a fight," Etter writes:
[N]ot someone whom as a prisoner you would like to have as your jail
keeper. Thus the detainees say that their wounds and bruises are the product of
falls or shrapnel. They say how well they are treated here, and they swear
loyalty to the Free Syrian Army. Much of what they say is not credible.
The most gruesome wounds that Etter describes involve a certain "Tamer" from Aleppo: until recently an enthusiastic supporter of Assad - so enthusiastic that he had a portrait of the Syrian president tattooed on his chest. In the meanwhile, the tattoo has been excised from Tamer's body with a razor blade. Tamer insists that he did the deed himself after rebel forces entered Aleppo. He says that he ran to the rebels' headquarters and sliced at the tattoo while yelling, "I give my blood for the Free Syrian Army!"
In a remarkable journalistic leap of faith, Etter writes, "Tamer's story cannot be independently verified either, but it is unlikely that Jumbo would have let a journalist speak with him if his scars were the result of abuse." As made clear by Etter's own description of the circumstances under which he was able to speak with the detainees, it is surely far more unlikely that Tamer would have accused his captors with "Jumbo" present.
Moreover, even supposing that Tamer did indeed inflict his own wounds, why would he commit such an act of self-mutilation if he did not expect worse from the "new authorities," as Etter puts it, if the tattoo was discovered? Rebel groups have repeatedly made clear that they feel entitled to target any and all supporters of the ancien regime.
Jumbo says that Tamer was a member of a pro-Assad militia: a so-called "shabiha". But there is no evidence presented for this in the article. "I have no proof that he killed anyone," Jumbo concedes.
It is equally unclear what "crimes" the other detainees are supposed to have committed. But their daily routine makes clear, at any rate, the ideological orientation of their captors. "They pray five times a day," Etter writes:
[A]nd study the Quran. Perhaps out of a sense of remorse, perhaps to
please their jailers, perhaps because they are forced to do so. Jumbo seems to
be convinced that their turn to God is doing good. "They are happier and
they are changing their attitude," he says.
In the neighboring town of Azaz, Etter encountered a less didactic form of Islamism: namely, in the person of rebel commander Abu Anas. Etter describes meeting Abu Anas in his office: a Koran and a "silver sword" were lying on his desk and a black flag hung over it. An Arabic inscription on the flag proclaimed, 'There is no God but God. Mohammed is his Prophet" "It is the flag that al-Qaeda also used," Etter remarks.
Seemingly taking his cue from Western supporters - or perhaps indeed advisors - Abu Anas emphasized that the black flag was also used before al-Qaeda. But if it is the distinctive black flag with the circular white "seal of Mohammed" in the middle, there appears to be no evidence that this is the case.
This is the flag made famous by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq: notably, as a result of the group's notoriously harrowing videos documenting the executions of captured Iraqi security personnel and American and other hostages. Indeed, even Zarqawi's group went through various versions of its flag before settling on the version that has since become the standard banner of al-Qaeda affiliates around the world.
In any case, it is not only the choice of flag that appears to have been inspired by al-Qaeda in Iraq. The rebel leader tells Etter that his forces captured Syrian government troops in the battle for Azaz. Asked what became of the government soldiers, Abu Anas responds, "We could not take care of them. Most of them are dead."
"Earlier," Etter explains, "when Abu Anas was not yet in the room, a smiling subordinate of his showed with gestures how they bound prisoners and shot them."
While there is not much he can do to put a positive spin on the actions of Abu Anas and his men, Etter labors mightily to try at least to cast "Jumbo" and his prison in Maara in a more positive light. In one somewhat surreal paragraph, he even praises the rebels for their supposed efforts to build a "fairer" system of justice in Maara - after he has raised the specter of prisoner abuse in Jumbo's prison.
Jumbo tells him about one case involving a group of Alawites who were detained by the rebels, but then later released since "we had no evidence against them". Etter does not ask: evidence of what? But even supposing that Jumbo's claim is true, it amounts to an admission that Alawites are being detained in rebel-controlled territories simply because they are Alawites.
In the language of international humanitarian law, what Etter has described in his article are clearly war crimes and probably too crimes against humanity. But when it is a matter of the crimes of the Syrian rebels, the West's otherwise supposedly so acute moral sensibilities appear to have become dull (Asia Times, 2012).
Title: Bomb Explodes Near Damascus Hotel Used By UN, Syrian TV Says
Date: August 15, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Syrian state-run TV says a bomb has exploded near a fuel truck outside a hotel where U.N. observers are staying in the capital, Damascus.
The TV says Wednesday's explosion wounded at least three people. None of them were believed to be U.N. staff.
An AP reporter at the scene says the blast went off inside the parking lot belonging to a military compound near the Dama Rose Hotel, popular with the U.N. observers in Syria.
The hotel was slightly damaged in the blast, with some of its windows
shattered. A Labor Union building across from the hotel was also damaged and
black smoke was seen billowing into the sky (Fox News, 2012).
Title: Obama Says His 'Red Line' In Syria Conflict Is WMD
Date: August 21, 2012
Source: USA Today
Abstract: President Obama has declared the threat of chemical or biological warfare in Syria a "red line" for the United States, outlining for the first time the point at which his administration could feel forced to intervene militarily in the Arab country's increasingly messy conflict.
Speaking to reporters Monday at the White House, Obama warned about the use or deployment of such weapons of mass destruction and said they risked widening a civil war that already has dragged on for 1½ years and killed some 20,000 people, according to activists. It is widely thought that Syria possesses extensive chemical and biological weapon stockpiles, and it has threatened to use them if the country comes under foreign attack.
"That's an issue that doesn't just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us," Obama said, underscoring that the U.S.wouldn't accept the threat of weapons of mass destruction from Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, rebels fighting the government, or militant groups aiding either side. "We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people."
The president noted that he hasn't ordered any armed U.S. intervention yet, but said: "We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region, that that's a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly."
The U.S. has opposed military involvement in Syria's war, partly out of fear that intervention would further militarize the conflict and worsen chances of a political solution. Continued deadlock at the United Nations means there is no clear mandate for the U.S. to help patrol Syrian airspace to stop airstrikes on rebel outposts, as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others have urged. And administration officials insist they know too little about much of Syria's opposition to start providing them weapons.
In issuing its threat last month, Syria acknowledged for the first time that it has what is thought to be among the biggest chemical and biological weapons programs in the world. Assad's military regime is believed to have mustard gas like the type used by Saddam Hussein against Iran and Iraq's Kurdish minority in the 1980s, as well as nerve agents such as tabun, sarin and VX that can be delivered in missiles, bombs, rockets, artillery shells or other large munitions.
Obama said U.S. officials were monitoring the situation "very carefully," and have assembled a range of contingency plans.
His declaration of the red line comes two days before the top U.S. diplomat for the Mideast, Beth Jones, leads an interagency delegation to Turkey to begin work on plans for worst-case scenarios in Syria, paramount among them a chemical or biological weapons attack on regime opponents.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said representatives of the Defense Department and the U.S. intelligence community would be represented in the delegation. The U.S. and its NATO ally will sit down "together to share operational picture, to talk about the effectiveness of what we're doing now and about what more we can do," she said.
Israel is among the most concerned. It is worried that as Assad's grip on power loosens, he could transfer weapons to groups such as Hezbollah or Hamas that Syria has supported in the past. Israel and the U.S. also worry that if rebels seize chemical or biological agents, they could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-linked fighters or other extremist elements now fighting for the opposition.
The U.S. so far has limited its aid to the Syrian rebels to humanitarian relief and communications equipment while trying to help the opposition come up with a blueprint for a post-Assad future, which the U.S. says is only a question of time. The approach aims to avoid a repeat of the post-Saddam chaos in Iraq by preventing sectarian strife and ensuring that the state continues to supply water, electricity and other basic services. Officials have called this regime change with a "soft landing."
Obama reiterated his call for Assad to step down, while offering a realistic assessment of the chances for a peaceful solution."So far he hasn't gotten the message, and instead has doubled down in violence on his own people," the president said. "The international community has sent a clear message that rather than drag his country into civil war, he should move in the direction of a political transition. But at this point, the likelihood of a soft landing seems pretty distant" (USA Today, 2012).
Title: Pentagon Plans To Capture Syria's Chemical Weapons
Date: August 23, 2012
Abstract: Following US President Barack Obama’s warning this week that the United States would quickly intervene in any Syrian efforts to use chemical weapons, the Pentagon is believed to have made contingency plans to outline a plan of action.
Defense Department sources speaking to the Los Angeles Times say that the Pentagon has indeed drafted plans that would put thoroughly-trained special ops troops into Syria in response to an active threat of chemical warfare. Fox News also confirms that senior US officials speaking on condition of anonymity have verified this claim.
Last month, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told reporters that President Basar al-Assad’s regime maintained a stockpile of chemical weapons, but said that the warheads, "are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression."
On Monday this week, President Obama warned, “if we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized” by Syria that Assad will have crossed a “red line” and American intervention would be immediate. In the latest developments, the Defense Department is thought to have set aside troops specifically prepared to enter Syria and recover such contraband.
The US has a "very professional and a very trained and ready force in the Gulf region … and it's in a deterrent preparedness posture,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey tells Fox, “but at some point if we're asked to use it, it'll be ready."
"I take the president's word that he will consider the use of chemical and biological warfare as a game changer,” Gen. Dempsey remarks of Obama’s warning.
To the Times, one senior official left unnamed says that the Pentagon will rely on the president’s judgment to determine if intervention must occur immediately, and while the Defense Department’s plans are not set in stone yet, the appropriate forces will be ready to respond.
"We have done contingency planning but we're not doing detailed planning — identifying numbers [of troops], units and platforms — until the White House tells us we need a specific plan for this,” the source says.
Another official tells the Times that he expects American efforts to be accompanied by other allied forces, and, "You shouldn't interpret what Obama said to mean that there would be automatic military action, but rather that we would respond as part of an international effort.”
Wednesday evening, UK officials confirmed that British Prime Minister David Cameron has endorsed Obama’s warning to Syria, with one Downing Street spokesperson telling the Times that "Both [leaders] agreed that the use – or threat – of chemical weapons was completely unacceptable and would force them to revisit their approach so far.”
Both Obama and Cameron spoke briefly by phone on Wednesday to discuss the Syrian issue. Israel’s Debka news agency adds that French President François Hollande was also involved in the conversation, which focused on fears that any chemical warheads overseas might slip into the hands of al-Qaeda or Hezbollah forces if they are not recovered by western allies.
Separate from Mr. Obama’s conversation with PM Cameron, the Guardian reports that the British leader and France’s Mr. Hollande spoke one-on-one-this week.
"They discussed how to build on the non-lethal support recently
announced by the UK and agreed that France and the UK would work more closely
to identify how they could bolster the opposition and help a potential
transitional Syrian government after the inevitable fall of Assad,” a British source tells the paper (RT, 2012).
Title: With A Wary Eye On Syria, Army Looks To Chemical Weapons Detectors
Date: August 23, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: The U.S. Army is taking steps that may protect troops from chemical warfare, investing tens of millions in chemical detectors and unveiling a new sniffer that "listens" for chemical weapons -- with a little help from the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.
President Barack Obama said this week that the movement or use of chemical weapons by Syria could lead to U.S. intervention, with “enormous consequences.” Even trace amounts of chemical weapons can be dangerous to boots on the ground, so detection speed is paramount.
Smiths Detection announced Wednesday that the U.S. Army has placed two new orders totaling more than $21 million for its handheld detector under one of the largest chemical warfare protection projects in the world, the Department of Defense’s Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) program.
The M4AI JCAD is a rugged, miniaturized, lightweight, handheld chemical agent detector -- one that can instantaneously detect, identify, and alert a soldier to the presence of nerve, blister, and blood chemical warfare agents.
The detector weighs less than two pounds including batteries, and at about the size of an old Sony Walkman, it’s small enough to hang on clothing, a belt or a harness.
Already in use by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force, the M4A1 immediately detects, identifies and warns of the threat, with advice on what level of gear is needed for protection. It stores up to 72 hours of mission data for later analysis and using standard AA batteries can provide 75 hours of continuous usage in extreme environments.
It’s even capable of detecting identifying, measuring and warning of threats at levels below attack concentration. It can also be used as a screening and survey device for the detection of residual contaminations closer to home.
But what does a Chemical Weapon Sound Like?
Thanks to one of the great American 19th century inventors and the work of the U.S. Army Research Lab, warfighters may be equipped with technology that can recognize the “sounds” of different chemicals instantaneously.
Most systems detect chemical weapons by testing the air; a new technique, described in the journal Optics Letters last week, could theoretically detect and identify any number of chemical agents instantly by “listening” -- thanks to the work of inventor Graham Bell.
In 1880, he discovered something called the photoacoustic effect, which could be described as how the accoustic waves are created when light is absorbed by materials.
Very low levels of gases -- even parts per trillion -- can be detected using Bell’s discovery, that each gas has different sound characteristics.
All it takes is some very sensitive microphones and a laser to build a laser photoacoustic spectograph. Conventional LPAS systems have been limited to identifying one chemical at a time, but U.S. Army Research Lab scientists Kristan Gurton, Melvin Felton, Richard Tober detailed a multi-wavelength system capable of picking out multiple biological and chemical threats simultaneously.
The team designed a hollow, cylindrical sensor system known as a photoacoustic cell that can hold vapors and is equipped with microphones. When light is applied to the sample gas, the cell “listens” for the signature sounds of gases.
In one experiment, using a photoacoustic cell that permits gases to pass through it and equipped with three laser beams, this system was tested against five nerve agent mimics and successfully identified them all.
Each laser issued a single acoustic frequency and each gas affected the “loudness” of each tone differently. Changes in sound volume reveal the presence of each chemical threat.
Before this approach can make the jump from the lab to the field it will need a rugged, light-weight laser array with sufficient power and the capacity to house a number of lasers at different frequencies.
And although a photoacoustic cell itself is cheap and easy to make, the “quantum cascade” laser array they describe means this solution will likely come at a cost.
Hotzone Handhelds for Suspicious Powders
At the end of July, Smiths Detection launched yet another chemical identifier, HazMatID Elite, for military forces operating in extreme climates.
Four times faster and miniaturized to a whopping ten times smaller than the company’s last liquid and solid detector, it is intended for use by the military and first responders to quickly and reliably evaluate suspicious powders and unknown substances.
By combining new innovations and capitalizing on incredible old
inventions, chemical attack detection appears to be taking a much needed step
forward (Fox News, 2012).
Cameron And Barack Obama Warn Syria Over Chemical Weapons
Date: August 23, 2012
Abstract: Prime Minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama have agreed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria or even a threat to deploy them would be “completely unacceptable”.
In a phone call the two leaders said if President Bashar Assad made such a move it "would force them to revisit their approach so far".
The two leaders said there was "much more to do" to stop the brutal killing of civilians in the Middle East state.
Earlier this week President Obama warned that any movement of Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons would be a "red line" which would have "enormous consequences".
Mr Cameron also discussed the situation with French president Francois Hollande and the two European nations agreed to "work more closely to identify how they could bolster the opposition and help a potential transitional Syrian government after the inevitable fall of Assad".
Downing Street said Mr Cameron and President Obama "both agreed that the use - or threat - of chemical weapons was completely unacceptable and would force them to revisit their approach so far".
A spokeswoman added: "The Prime Minister restated the risk to the wider region posed by the fighting and the fact that regional and international cooperation was vital.
"He reinforced the need to work in close cooperation with Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others on the issue."
They also "firmly agreed that there was much more to do in order to stop the brutal killing of civilians and help put Syria on a path towards peace and stability".
They discussed how to build on the support both nations had offered to the opposition in Syria "to end the appalling violence and bring about stability".
The leaders said they hoped a meeting of opposition groups in Cairo would show "real unity of purpose and coherence in working towards transition".
Mr Cameron and Mr Obama agreed that more should be done by the international community to channel humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees through the UN appeal.
Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande discussed the need to maintain international pressure on the Assad regime.
They agreed that the refugee situation was "deeply troubling" and Mr Hollande said that the humanitarian crisis would be the focus of France's United Nations Security Council ministerial meeting at the end of the month.
The pair welcomed the appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as the new UN envoy and hoped that he would carry on the work of Kofi Annan in "seeking a credible political solution - as well as holding the regime to account for any further atrocities".
Fierce fighting raged in Damascus yesterday, with regime forces shelling several areas of the southern city before tanks continued the assault, reportedly killing at least 35 suspected rebels.
The northern city of Aleppo also saw armed battles (Independent, 2012).
Title: Syrian Rebels Give Airlines '72-Hour Warning' Before They Plan To Seize
Date: September 1, 2012
Abstract: The Free Syrian Army (FSA) gave a 72-hour advance warning to airlines to suspend flights to Syria before the rebels try to seize civilian airports in Damascus and Aleppo. They claim the Syrian Air Force is using them 'illegally.'
The 72-hour period begins on Saturday, September 1, the FSA told Asharq
Al-Awsat, the major pan-Arab daily newspaper based in London.
The FSA believes that Syria's civilian airports are being used to support pro-regime military operations.
“The criminal regime of Syria has begun to use civilian airports for take-off and landing of warplanes,” the FSA said.
International law prohibits attacks on civilian airports, whether during internal conflicts or wars between states. Prior to the FSA's ultimatum, some international companies already cancelled flights to Syria over security and cost concerns.
The UAE’s Etihad Airways suspended flights to Damascus on Friday, citing the country's “deteriorating security situation.” Royal Jordanian Airlines suspended all flights to Syria in July. Russia’s Aeroflot also ceased flights to Damascus in the beginning of August until further notice.
The rebels believe the Assad regime has been forced to use civilian airports for military purposes after an allegedly successful attack against the army's Abu Zuhour airbase in Syria's Idlib province, near the Turkish border. In the attack, rebels claimed they destroyed 10 grounded MIG-23 fighter jets and shot down two others.
Government forces thwarted another opposition attack on the Rasmi al-Aboud airport near the city of Aleppo on Saturday, Syrian state television reports. Images of cars filled with machine guns and other weapons were broadcast, and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the attack. The group claims many government troops were killed and injured in the assault, though no exact figures were forthcoming.
Syrian state television acknowledged that rebels had targeting the base, but said “the terrorists” were forced to flee after suffering heavy losses.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, the FSA's Colonel Riad al-Asaad claimed that all of the downed aircraft – including “eight to ten helicopters” – were damaged with heavy 14.5mm machine guns, and not with anti-aircraft missiles.
In August, NBC reported that two dozen portable surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, possibly Soviet-made, were smuggled through Turkey to the FSA. The weapons may have originated in Libya, where thousands of SAM launchers were stolen from military arsenals after the fall of the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The rebels have requested SAMs to challenge the air superiority of Assad's troops. The Persian Gulf monarchiesSaudi Arabia and Qatar support the idea, and said they were ready to pay for the arms.
But many fear that the portable SAMs may end up in the hands of militants with links to Al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations that have infiltrated the ranks of the FSA.
Dr. Ali Mohammad, the editor in chief of Syria Tribune, told RT that the threat to seize civilian airports shows the Syrian rebels terrorist intent.
“First, there is no proof that they will only be targeting government aircraft… I don’t think they have the means to distinguish which are government ones and which are not. The rebels saying they are attacking civilian airports now is just one more step in reveling their terrorist nature,” he said.
Dr. Mohammad supported comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday, who said it is“absolutely unrealistic” to expect the Syrian government to “unilaterally capitulate.” He claims the West contradicts itself in claiming its desire to protect civilians, when its actions are directly fueling the ongoing conflict.
“The only reason the rebels are still fighting until today is because they enjoy logistic, weapons and financial support from many countries. What Mr. Lavrov said is very important. How can you ask a national army in any country in the world to stop fighting rebels [whose] existence you recognize…what do you expect the army to do,” he said.“How can your protect civilians by imposing war? If you want to protect civilians you have to stop war, and stopping war starts with stopping the influx of weapons and money to the rebels,” he continued (RT, 2012).
Title: France Warns Of Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack
Date: September 3, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Western powers are preparing a tough response in case Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime deploys chemical or biological weapons in its civil war, France's foreign minister said Monday.
Syria's leadership has said the country, which is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas and Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals, could use chemical or biological weapons if it were attacked from outside.
President Barack Obama has called it a "red line" for the U.S. if Assad's regime were to use chemical or biological weapons, and France has been ratcheting up its language on the issue.
Speaking on RMC radio Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said "we are discussing this notably with our American and English partners." If Syria uses such weapons "our response ... would be massive and blistering," he said.
Fabius added that Russia and China are "of the same position," but acknowledged frustration at their continuing support for Assad.
The foreign ministries of both China and Russia declined immediate comment on Monday.
But, since the start of the Syrian conflict Beijing has been consistent in its stance that it should be settled through negotiations and not by outside forces.
Moscow is Syria's chief ally, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the AP in a recent interview that Russia has the Syrian government's assurances that chemical weapons will not be used. Gatilov said Russia will "work toward the goal of preventing such things from happening."
China and Russia have repeatedly used their veto powers in the U.N. Security Council to block U.S.- and Arab-backed action that could have led to sanctions against Assad's regime (Fox News, 2012).
Title: Source: Al-Qaeda-Trained Terrorists Sent To Syria From Waziristan
Date: September 4, 2012
Abstract: Al-Qaeda, backed by Turkey, the US and its regional Arab allies, has set up a new camp in Northern Waziristan in Pakistan to train Salafi and Jihadi terrorists and dispatches them to Syria via Turkish borders, sources said.
"A new Al-Qaeda has been created in the region through the financial and logistical backup of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a number of western states, specially the US," the source told FNA.
Ali Mahdian told FNA that the US and the British governments have been playing with the al-Qaeda through their Arab proxy regimes in the region in a bid to materialize their goals, specially in Syria.
He said the Saudi and Qatari regimes serve as interlocutors to facilitate the CIA and MI6 plans in Syria through instigating terrorist operations by Salafi and Arab Jihadi groups, adding that the terrorists do not know that they actually exercise the US plans.
"Turkey has also been misusing extremist Salafis and Al-Qaeda terrorists to intensify the crisis in Syria and it has recently augmented its efforts in this regard by helping the new Al-Qaeda branch set up a camp in Northern Waziristan in Pakistan to train Al-Qaeda and Taliban members as well as Turkish Salafis and Arab Jihadis who are later sent to Syria for terrorist operations," said the source.
He said the camp in Waziristan is not just a training center, but a command center for terrorist operations against Syria.
Yet, the source said the US and Britain are looking at the new Al-Qaeda force as an instrument to attain their goals and do not intend to support them to ascend to power, "because if Salafi elements in Syria ascend to power, they will create many problems for the US, the Western states and Turkey in future".
"Thus, the US, Britain and Turkey are looking at the Al-Qaeda as a tactical instrument," he said, and warned of the regional and global repercussions of the US and Turkish aid to the Al-Qaeda and Salafi groups.
"Unfortunately, these group of countries have just focused on the short-term benefits that the Salafis and the Al-Qaeda can provide for them and ignore the perils of this support in the long run," he said.
"At present, the western countries, specially Britain which hosts and controls the Jihadi Salafi groups throughout the world are paving the ground for these extremists to leave their homes - mostly in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Untied Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as those who live in Europe and the US - for Waziristan," the source added.
In relevant remarks, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi last week blamed certain states, the Salafis and the Al-Qaeda for terrorist operations which have claimed the lives of thousands of people in his country, and said terrorist groups supported by certain foreign actors are misusing differences in his country to bring Syria into turmoil.
Addressing the 16th heads-of-state summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) here in Tehran on Thursday, the Syrian premier noted terrorist attacks on his nation, and said the "terrorists are backed up by certain foreign states".
"Many countries allege to be supporting peaceful solutions in Syria, but they oppose Annan's plan in practice," he said, and cautioned, "The responsibility for the failure of this plan lies on their shoulder as they strove to keep the Syrian crisis going and falsified events."
"The world should know that the Syrian crisis, in fact, rises from foreign meddling. Certain well-known countries from inside and outside the region are seeking instability of Syria," the Syrian prime minister complained.
Elaborating on the recent developments in Syria, al-Halqi said, "It has been proved that foreign-backed terrorist groups have been misusing events and killing the innocent people."
"These terrorists include Salafis and Al-Qaeda Takfiri groups," he reiterated, and added, "Those states that support terrorism and oppose talks should be given moral and economic punishments as they are part of the problem in Syria."
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011 with organized attacks by well-armed gangs against Syrian police forces and border guards being reported across the country.
In October, calm was eventually restored in the Arab state after President Assad started a reform initiative in the country, but Israel, the US and its Arab allies are seeking hard to bring the country into chaos through any possible means. Tel Aviv, Washington and some Arab capitals have been staging various plots in the hope of stirring unrests in Syria once again.
The US and its western and regional allies have long sought to topple Bashar al-Assad and his ruling system. Media reports said that the Syrian rebels and terrorist groups have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States.
The US daily, Washington Post, reported in May that the Syrian rebels and terrorist groups battling the President Bashar al-Assad's government have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States.
The newspaper, quoting opposition activists and US and foreign officials, reported that Obama administration officials emphasized the administration has expanded contacts with opposition military forces to provide the Persian Gulf nations with assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure.
Opposition activists who several months ago said the rebels were running out of ammunition said in May that the flow of weapons - most bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military in the past - has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month (FARS, 2012).
Title: Syrian Minister Accuses Mossad Of Assassinating Syrians
Date: September 4, 2012
Source: Israel Hayom
Abstract: Information minister criticizes Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi after the latter voices sympathy for the Syrian revolt: "There is no difference between Mubarak and Morsi, who has done nothing for the Palestinians and continues to sell gas to Israel."
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi accused Israel's Mossad on Monday of carrying out targeted assassinations in Syria, as well as aiding the rebellion which has brought Syria to civil war.
"We found arms caches with the weapons used by the terrorists, and their source was Israel," al-Zoebi said. He also claimed some of the attacks against individuals and institutions in Syria "had the fingerprints of intelligence services, including Israel's Mossad." He did not elaborate or say which attacks Israel was allegedly behind.
Al-Zoebi also leveled criticism at Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who during the Non-Aligned Movement conference last week conveyed his sympathy to the Syrian rebels, likening their struggle to the Palestinian conflict with Israel.
"There is no difference between [ousted President Hosni] Mubarak and Morsi, who has done nothing for the Palestinians and continues to sell gas to Israel," al-Zoebi said.
The Syrian regime said Monday there would be no dialogue with the opposition before the army crushed the rebels, the latest sign that President Bashar al-Assad is determined to solve the crisis on the battlefield even if many more of his people have to pay with their lives.
The statement comes a day after activists reported that August had been the bloodiest month since the uprising began in March 2011.
"There will be no dialogue with the opposition prior to the Syrian army's imposition of security and stability in all parts of the country," al-Zoebi said.
The opposition has long rejected any talks with the regime until Assad is removed from power.
Muhieddine Lathkani, an opposition figure based in Britain, responded to the minister's comments by saying, "The key to any dialogue will be the departure of Assad and dismantling of the regime's security agencies that committed all these crimes."
Lathkani told The Associated Press by telephone that only after this happened, could there be a dialogue.
Earlier in the day, the new U.N. envoy to Syria acknowledged that brokering an end to the civil war would be a "very, very difficult" task.
Activists on Sunday said some 5,000 people had been killed in August, the highest monthly toll in the 17-month-old uprising and more than three times the monthly average. At the same time, the U.N. children's fund, UNICEF, said 1,600 people were killed last week alone, also the highest figure for the entire revolt.
The two major activists groups raised their total death toll for the entire revolt to at least 23,000 and as high as 26,000.
The civil war witnessed a major turning point in August when Assad's forces began widely using air power for the first time to try to put down the revolt. The fighting also reached Syria's largest city, Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet for most of the uprising.
Last week, Assad said in an interview that his armed forces would need time to defeat the rebels, an acknowledgment that his regime is struggling to defeat the tenacious rebels and another indication that the civil war will be even more drawn out and bloody.
In the latest violence on Monday, activists said more than 100 people were killed — many of them in two air raids that knocked out large parts of buildings in the northern province of Aleppo. Government warplanes bombed the town of Al-Bab, killing at least 19 people and the Aleppo neighborhood of Myasar where 10 people, including four children, were killed.
The two main activist groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, said the airstrikes targeted a residential area in the northern town of al-Bab, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Turkish border. The observatory said 19 people were killed in the air raid; the committees put the death toll at 25.
An amateur video posted online showed men frantically searching for bodies in the rubble of a white building smashed into a pile of debris. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.
An amateur video from Myasar showed men digging through the rubble and cutting metal to pick up the dead buried under the debris. The video showed the bodies of a girl and a man being removed.
Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general who heads a Beirut-based think tank, said the government was using MiG warplanes to bomb targets on the ground with missiles ranging between 50 kilograms (110 pounds) and 200 kilograms (440 pounds).
"Those bombs fall in a shape that looks like a barrel, then explode when they hit the ground," he said.
Syrian officials said a bomb attached to a taxi blew up in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing five people and wounding 23. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Activists, meanwhile, reported scattered violence in regions across the country, including the Damascus suburbs, the region of Deir el-Zour in the east, Daraa in the south and Idlib and Aleppo in the north.
The observatory said 100 people were killed Monday while the LCC put the number at 205, many of them in Aleppo province.
Diplomatic efforts to solve the seemingly intractable conflict have failed so far. A peace plan by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan never got off the ground and Annan quit his post as special U.N. envoy. He was replaced Saturday by Lakhdar Brahimi, a 78-year-old former Algerian foreign minister.
Brahimi, who also served as a U.N. envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, commended Annan on his work, saying he did "everything possible."
"We discussed this several times and I can't think of anything that I would have done differently from him," Brahimi told the BBC in an interview. "It is definitely a very, very difficult mission."
He added that he was "scared of the weight of the responsibility" and that he was "standing in front of a brick wall ... We'll have to see if we can go around that wall."
Asked whether his task was "Mission Impossible," Brahimi said: "I suppose it is."
In Damascus, Information Minister al-Zoebi pledged that Syria would cooperate with the new U.N. envoy, saying, "We will give him maximum assistance the way we did with Kofi Annan."
The Assad regime made similar public statements when it signed on to Annan's peace plan, only to frequently ignore or outright violate its commitments by refusing to pull its troops out of cities and cease its shelling of opposition areas.
Al-Zoebi sought to shift some of the responsibility for the future success or failure of Brahimi's mission onto the shoulders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — three of the harshest critics of the Syrian regime and strong supporters of the rebels trying to overthrow Assad.
The three countries, al-Zoebi said, must "stop sending weapons (to rebels) and close training bases," they are hosting.
The Syrian minister did not confirm or deny whether Syrian authorities were holding foreign journalists who entered the country illegally, but said that any person who did so, whether a Syrian or a foreigner, will be referred to judicial authorities.
He reassured reporters, however, that if any journalists were held by authorities "they will receive special treatment even though they violated Syrian laws." He asked journalists at the news conference to give his office any names they have of reporters that they knew with certainty are held by authorities.
At least three journalists are missing in Syria and are believed to be held by the regime.
Alhurra TV correspondent Bashar Fahmi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, and his Turkish cameraman, Cuneyt Unal, are said to have been captured in the city of Aleppo after entering Syria last month. The third journalist, American Austin Tice, has reported on the conflict for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other media outlets, is also reported missing in Syria.
Al-Zoebi also warned against foreign power intervening in Syria, saying, "If anyone infringes on our national sovereignty there will be no red lights to our retaliation ... We will cut such a hand and make them pay a high price."
The West has shown little appetite to intervene in Syria, in part because, unlike the military intervention that helped bring down Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, the Syrian conflict has the potential to quickly escalate.
Damascus has a web of allegiances to powerful forces including Shiite powerhouse Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah and there are concerns that a military campaign could pull them into a wider regional conflagration.
Western powers, however, have warned Assad against using chemical weapons in the conflict.
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that if Syria uses such weapons, "our response ... would be massive and blistering."
Speaking to RMC radio, he said Western countries were monitoring the
movement of the weapons in Syria to be ready to "step in"
immediately. "We are discussing this notably with our American and English
partners," Fabius said (Israel Hayom, 2012).
Title: 'Syrians Tested Chemical Weapons Firing Systems'
Date: September 17, 2012
Source: Jerusalem Post
Abstract: 'Der Spiegel' quotes witnesses as saying tanks, helicopters fired shells capable of chemical weapons under observation of IRGC.
Syria tested firing systems for poison gas shells at the country's largest chemical weapons research center at Safira, east of Aleppo, last month, German weekly Der Spiegelreported on Monday, citing statements from various witnesses.
According to the report, Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers were flown in by helicopter to witness the testing.
Several empty shells, designed to carry chemical weapons, were fired by tanks and helicopters in a desert location near the research center, Der Spiegel quoted the witnesses as saying.
According to the report, Syria has reinforced security at the facility and made efforts to safeguard its electricity supply in recent months, in case of rebel attack.
Both the US and Israel have expressed concern over Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands or being used by Syrian President Bashar Assad to quell the uprising in the country.
US President Barack Obama warned last month that any sign that Assad was starting to utilize the weapons, or move them, would constitute a "red line" that could trigger US military intervention in the conflict.
"We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people," Obama told an impromptu White House news conference. He acknowledged he was not "absolutely confident" the stockpile was secure.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in July that Israel would take military action if needed to prevent Syria's chemical weapons from falling into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
According to Monday's report in Der Spiegel, the Safira chemical weapons research center includes scientists from North Korea and Iran who produce chemical weapons such as mustard gas and sarin which they test on animals.
The German weekly quoted a member of the Free Syrian Army as saying that
the rebels are not planning to attack or capture the site (Jerusalem Post, 2012).
Title: Syrian War Looms Over UN Meeting Of World Leaders
Date: September 18, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Hovering over this month's annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations is the international community's failure to end the escalating war in Syria that is starting to spill over into a fragile and divided region.
The Syrian conflict has bitterly divided the most powerful members of the Security Council, paralyzing the only U.N. body that can impose global sanctions and authorize military action.
It frustrated former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, who quit his high-profile role as special envoy to the country last month, giving reasons that amounted to scathing criticism of world powers for failing to unite to stop the chaos in the Arab state.
There will be a flurry of meetings on the sidelines of the VIP gathering at the General Assembly that begins Sept. 25, including a ministerial meeting of the Security Council's five veto-wielding members and lots of behind-the-scenes discussions among the more than 130 heads of state and government coming to New York. But frustrated diplomats don't expect any breakthrough on Syria, and outside observers agree.
This "means we're heading into a very dark time in Syria -- more violence and a slow grinding conflict that's going to test everyone's limits on non-intervention," Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow and Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.
"I think it's the elephant in the room in the sense that it's a lightning rod issue," Tabler said. "It's a crisis the U.N. is unable to deal with. And so, basically what happens is that you're going to have a lot of speeches ... but unless you get the Security Council agreeing I don't see anything happening."
Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, the division among the five powerful permanent council nations has deepened.
The United States, Britain and France have tried unsuccessfully to get the council to put pressure on President Bashar Assad's government to halt the fighting and pull back its heavy weapons.
Russia, Syria's key protector, and China, which is supporting Moscow, are demanding equal pressure on the opposition and say the West's real goal is regime change, which could lead to a takeover of Syria by Islamist radicals. Russia is the major arms supplier to Syria and has a base in Tartus. It is its only naval base outside the former Soviet Union that serves Russian navy ships on missions to the Mediterranean.
Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions, the latest in July which included the threat of non-military sanctions.
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said Monday that the Security Council "has never been as paralyzed as it is today since the end of the Cold War."
France is now working with the U.S., Britain, Turkey, Arab friends and the Syrian opposition in its fight against the Assad regime, he said.
"It is essential that we support the democratic opposition in Syria," Araud said. "Some believe it is possible to choose between Assad and the Islamists. We tell them, `If you keep blocking, you'll get Assad and then the Islamists."'
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the council's failure to support efforts by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Annan to end the violence is "reprehensible and has only intensified the suffering of the Syrian people. "
"I am not optimistic in the short term that the dynamic in the council is going to change," she said. "However, the United States is not allowing that to block our efforts to speed the day when Assad departs, through sanctions and political and nonlethal support for the opposition."
President Barack Obama has called for Assad to step down, but the United States wants to ensure that whatever government replaces his regime is a democracy that respects the rights of all Syrians, particularly religious minorities and women.
Annan has been replaced with former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, a highly regarded diplomat and mediator who met Assad in Damascus on Saturday, but gave no indication of a breakthrough.
Many countries are hopeful that Brahimi can get the government and opposition to peace talks, but he has called his mission "nearly impossible."
He has said he is still holding talks with key players and does not have a plan yet.
"I will go to New York for the occasion of the General Assembly, to meet the Security Council and foreign ministers and representatives of countries that have interest, influence or both concerning Syria," Brahimi said.
The Security Council has given its support to Brahimi, but its division is so deep now that members couldn't even agree on a statement last month on the humanitarian crisis. The conflict has left some 3 million Syrians inside and outside the country in need of food and other assistance.
Michael Weiss, research director at the London-based Henry Jackson Society think tank, said no breakthrough is likely at the General Assembly because Russian President Vladimir Putin has done nothing "to repudiate Assad." Also, he added, Obama is reluctant to intervene in the Middle East as he fights for reelection on a record of ending the U.S. military role in Iraq and setting a 2014 deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan.
"All you are going to see for the next six months or longer is this continuing state of civil war," Weiss said. "The rebels may assassinate members of the Assad regime, but until they have parity of weaponry and forces, Damascus will not fall."
The West has hesitated to arm the rebels for fear that costly and lethal equipment could fall into the hands of extremists like al-Qaida, or get lost. The rebels have received weapons delivered via Turkey, Iraq and elsewhere, according to activists and diplomats. Some of the arms, activists say, are purchased with Saudi and Qatari funds.
The Syrian conflict, which began as a protest against four decades of dictatorship by the Assad family, was spawned by the Arab Spring, the pro-democracy wave of uprisings across the Middle East that began when Tunisians rose up in January 2011 against their longtime dictator.
The changes in the Arab world since then are the theme of a ministerial-level meeting of the Security Council on Sept. 26 on the sidelines of the General Assembly speeches.
Germany U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig, the current Security Council president whose foreign minister will be presiding at that meeting, said "there will be council members who will speak out on Syria." But he said the focus of the meeting will be the emergence of the Arab League as a key player in the Middle East with "a lot more clout."
Supporters of a democratic government in Syria -- the "Friends of Syria" -- are also scheduled to meet on Sept. 28 at a session chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Their last meeting in Paris in July brought together some 100 nations including the U.S., its European and Arab partners, as well as the fractious Syrian opposition, all looking to turn up the heat to force Assad from power.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said "Syria will be at or near the top of the agenda at most of the key bilateral meetings."
There will also be a meeting of foreign ministers and development ministers "to galvanize support for refugees and those displaced within Syria," he said.
Earlier this month, the United Nations nearly doubled its humanitarian appeal for Syria to $347 million, even though the original appeal for $180 million is only half-funded. The secretary-general has urged donors to increase their contributions.
Another issue certain to make headlines during the General Assembly is the dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who insists his country's nuclear program is peaceful, will address the assembly on Sept. 26. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear arsenal, takes the podium on Sept. 27.And on that day political directors from the six countries trying to get Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- will meet behind closed doors, possibly followed by a ministerial session (Fox News, 2012).
Title: Syrian Regime 'Will Deploy Chemical Weapons As Last Resort'
Date: September 19, 2012
Abstract: Major-General Adnan Sillu said he defected from the Syrian army three months ago after being party to top-levels talks about the use of chemical weapons on both rebel fighters and civilians.
"We were in a serious discussion about the use of chemical weapons, including how we would use them and in what areas," he told The Times, referring to a meeting held at Syria's chemical weapons centre south of Damascus.
"We discussed this as a last resort – such as if the regime lost control of an important area such as Aleppo."
Speaking from Turkey, General Sillu said he was certain President Bashar al-Assad's regime would eventually use chemical weapons against civilians, adding that the discussion had been "the last straw" which triggered his defection.
His comments come after German press reported on Tuesday that the Syrian army had tested a chemical weapons delivery system.
In his first interview since his defection, General Sillu said the Syrian regime had also considered supplying chemical weapons to the Lebanon-based militant group Hizbollah.
"They wanted to place warheads with the chemical weapons on missiles – to transfer them this way to Hizbollah. It was for use against Israel, of course," he said.
He suggested that the regime now had "nothing to lose" in sharing the weapons and added: "If a war starts between Hizbollah and Israel it will be only good for Syria."
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard also attended numerous meetings to discuss the use of chemical weapons, he said.
"They were always coming to visit and to advise. They were always sending us scientists and bringing our scientists to them. They were also involved on the political side of how to use the chemical weapons."
The German magazine Der Spiegel, citing "witnesses, reported Monday that the Syrian army has tested a chemical weapons delivery system, firing shells at a research centre in its northwestern desert region.
"Five or six empty shells devised for delivering chemical agents were fired by tanks and aircraft, at a site called Diraiham in the desert near the village of Khanasir," east of the city of Aleppo, Der Spiegel reported.The Safira research centre in question is regarded as Syria's largest testing site for chemical weapons (Telegraph, 2012).
Title: Exported Swiss Arms Mysteriously Reach Syria
Date: September 22, 2012
Abstract: Hand grenades exported by Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates several years ago, are now in Syria, according to the Swiss government. The finding comes after a newspaper photograph showed a Syrian rebel with a Swiss-made grenade.
The picture prompted Switzerland to set up a joint commission with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in July, according to AP.
Switzerland temporarily halted arms shipments to the UAE after the photo was printed, but lifted a block on licenses for such deliveries once the commission was established.
The investigation found that the UAE gave part of a shipment of Swiss hand grenades to Jordan in 2004, to support its fight against terrorism.
"From there the hand grenades evidently made their way to Syria," a Swiss government statement said.
The statement did not give details of how the weapons made their way from Jordan to Syria. It did, however, note that the case pre-dated Switzerland’s 2006 introduction of rules which prohibit countries to re-export arms.
Additionally, countries are now explicitly prohibited from transferring weapons in the form of gifts or loans.
Berne has stated that application procedures for arms can now be resumed, but that new safeguards will be implemented.
Applications to export weapons to the UAE must include a declaration that they won’t be re-exported. The document will also grant Switzerland the right to conduct an on-site inspection of the weapons after they’re shipped.
Switzerland says it will conduct a review of past exports to “various countries” over the coming months, although it did not identify which nations would be involved (RT, 2012).
Title: Panetta Says Intelligence Shows Syria Moved Some Chemical Weapons
Date: September 28, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Intelligence suggests the Syrian government has moved some of its chemical weapons in order to protect them, but the U.S. believes that the main sites remain secure, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday, indicating there are lingering questions about what exactly happened to some of the weapons.
It was the first time Panetta confirmed that U.S. officials believe there have been multiple "limited" movements of the chemical weapons, but he said Syrian officials were relocating them in order to better secure them.
"There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that's taken place, we don't know," Panetta told reporters. "I don't have any specific information about the opposition and whether or not they've obtained some of this or how much they've obtained and just exactly what's taken place."
Asked specifically if there was any belief that the Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard or the rebel forces have been able to get possession of any of the weapons, Panetta appeared to leave the door open to that possibility, saying he has no "firm information to confirm that that's taken place."
He said the U.S. has monitored the main sites and determined that they are still secure.
There have been ongoing concerns that the opposition forces battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad or other militant forces in the country may get their hands on the weapons caches.
It is widely believed that Syria possesses extensive chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and it has threated to use them if the country comes under attack.
President Obama has declared that the threat of chemical or biological warfare in Syria is a "red line" for the U.S., and has warned that the U.S. will not tolerate it if the weapons fall into the wrong hands. He said there would be enormous consequences if the U.S. sees any movement or use of the weapons.Panetta was speaking at a news conference with Canadian Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay (Fox News, 2012).