What about Syria?
By: Charbel Khouri

In the fight against terrorism Syria has somehow been forgotten. This terrorist state has been on the US State department list of countries that sponsor terrorism since its inception in 1979, it even has been assigned the Special Designated Terrorist (SDT) status. The dictatorial regime of the Assad family in Syria has been synonymous with terrorism in all its forms. Through a combination of terror tactics and shrewd political maneuvering Syria has been able not only to maintain and tighten its grip on its much smaller neighbor Lebanon, but also has amassed a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) arsenal that make it the largest stockpile in the Arab world.

Damascus has one of the most advanced Chemical Weapons (CW) programs in the Middle East. Due largely to North Korean assistance, Syria is now able to produce its own CW and has numerous plants scattered all over the country. These factories such as the Al-Safir plant near the city of Aleppo produce large amounts of the deadly toxic nerve agents namely sarin and VX gas. Respected WMD expert Anthony Cordesman recently stated that “Syria is capable of producing several hundred tons of CW agents per year”. This is a frightening thought considering Damascus is home to several terrorist organizations and has openly endorsed the activities of those they support. 

The fact that Syria is still actively seeking WMD is cause for great alarm. Military experts believe that while Syria does not produce Biological Weapons (BW) such as anthrax and ricin, it does import these deadly products from North Korea and other ‘rogue’ states. In recent years Syria has built the infrastructure needed and has taken steps to develop its own BW albeit on a limited scale. Creating further suspicion around the world is the fact that Syria has failed to ratify the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). On May 6, 2002 John R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security described Syria’s status as follows:

“Syria, which has signed but not ratified the BWC, is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents. While we believe Syria would need foreign assistance to launch a large-scale biological weapons program right now, it may obtain such assistance by the end of this decade.”

Damascus not only has the WMD, but also has the tools to deliver them. Syria possesses Scud-B and Scud-C ballistic missiles capable of being fitted with chemical warheads, and according to official intelligence reports tested a Scud-B in 1999, carrying a warhead designed to disperse VX. Scud missiles are not the only weapons in its inventory; the missile stockpile is also arguably the largest in the Middle East. The Syrian army and air force is equipped with FROG 7 and Scarab SS-21 missiles. Furthermore Syria tested a North Korean Scud-D with a range of 700 kms. Syria is also building the Chinese M-9 missile, which has a range of 800 kms and can carry CW and BW warheads.

While Iraq’s WMD stockpile and its delivery systems such as missiles, rockets and bombs have been severely put into disarray due to sanctions and frequent allied bombing of sites, Syria has escaped and in fact has gone on expanding and updating its own WMD program. Syria surely must be a threat to world security and accordingly has to be brought to heel. Recent history shows us that western countries especially the U.S have had a policy of appeasement. This policy was not the correct way of achieving peace and security. The world must bring an end to ‘rogue’ states that openly flaunt the rule of law and the Middle East is a great place to start. Syria must be made accountable for its actions.