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Chemical and Biological Weapons
in Syria

Dany Shoham
Policy Paper No. 93, in the book
Peace with Syria: No Margin for Error, 2000


For about two decades, Syria has a consistent policy of chemical and biological arms acquisition that is systematic and determined and that has never been actually denied by Syria. More than any other country, Syria has a policy of seeking strategic parity with Israel which, in military terms, means getting biological and chemical weapons, given that nuclear weapons are not attainable for now. This pattern was seen by the chemical weapons procured by Syria from Egypt in their joint preparations for the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, and even today, Assad, Mubarak and other Arab leaders coordinate positions on refusing to adhere to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions.

Moreover, Syria possibly cooperates with Egypt in biological and chemical arms acquisition today, and it certainly does with Iran and probably with Libya. It has been aided though not necessarily through institutionalized channels by Russia, China and North Korea, in efforts to enlarge its longer-range surface-to-surface missiles that carry operational chemical and biological warheads, among them the Scud-C, the M-9 and the No-Dhong. Assistance in upgrading and scaling up its chemical-biological capabilities is given also by other formerly soviet countries, India and, still, European firms. Several facilities located in different sites in Syria are involved in that efforts and are in part disguised as civilian buyers.

During recent years Syria has switched from above-ground missiles and non-conventional weapons facilities to underground storage and production, thereby significantly limiting Israel's ability to monitor and destroy those strategic facilities.

The first and by far only Syrian employment of a chemical warfare agent took place in 1982 it was the lethal cyanide gas used by the Syrian regime in the slaughter of some 18,000 Sunni residents of the city of Hama, in Syria itself.

Ever since then, Syria has made a very significant progress in the area of chemical and biological weapons, which has various implications of major importance. It built up an elaborate, large arsenal of sarin and VX nerve agents containing aerial bombs and missiles warheads, and formed a delivery realignment that is capable of instantly launching those deadly weapons at a variety of targets and objects in Israel, both strategic and tactical. Biological warfare agents anthrax, botulinum and others have recently been added to the Syrian inventory.

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