Tag Archives: Chemical weapon

Syria: The Assad Equation

 

Hussein Ibish

An alarming precedent in international relations is being established in Syria by rewarding gassing civilians

Bashar al-Assad speaks to Turkish media in an interview later uploaded to YouTube by the Syrian president.

The worst fears of those who doubted the wisdom and effectiveness of the agreement between the international community and the Assad regime to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and capability are rapidly being realized. Today’s “deadline” to ship the most serious material out of the country produced no movement. And a new precedent in international relations with potentially far-reaching and alarming consequences – call it “the Assad equation” – is unmistakably unfolding.

Whatever signals the West intended to send through the agreement, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has clearly taken it as an implicit green light to use all other weapons with increasing intensity in his onslaught against both rebels and Syria’s defenseless civilian population.

The way the regime is “implementing” the agreement demonstrates they see it primarily as a useful distraction for the international community from the vicious war it is conducting against the Syrian people. The regime probably doesn’t care that much about chemical weapons. But, as they are making abundantly clear, when they can avoid compliance, they will.

Reports suggest that today’s “deadline” for shipping most of its chemical weapons stockpile out of the country is being systematically procrastinated. Indeed, according to reports by those involved in the process on the UN and international side, the weapons have not even begun to be moved.

Anyone who finds it convenient can cite logistics, winter weather, and, of course, the ongoing conflict for such “delays.” All of these complications were fully understood and, presumably, factored into the equation when the December 31 deadline was agreed upon. But the process required to ensure that Syria retains no chemical weapons in the timeframe the agreement sets forth was always implausible at best and, at worst, practically impossible to either accomplish or verify.

The plan to transport Syria’s declared 1,200 tons of chemical weapons material requires its transfer from 12 different sites around the country by road to the northwestern port of Latakia. This means, in effect, that the agreement both relies on and therefore implicitly endorses military measures the regime can claim are necessary to secure the areas required for this macabre long-haul convoy.

The agreement not only makes Assad a partner with the international community in the project of getting rid of his own chemical weapons following their use against civilians, but it can also be cited to justify regime offensives in order to ensure their control of all the necessary areas and roads for this transfer.

International authorities say the regime now has “virtually all” of the necessary “logistical and security assets” in order to bring these weapons to Latakia. But to cite this as a positive development can also only mean de facto endorsement of regime control over key areas and transportation corridors of the country.

Assad, therefore, appears to have discovered or pioneered a new principle of international relations: lost legitimacy can be restored, and a consensus in favor of regime change can be profoundly compromised by dumping poison gas on civilians, including hundreds of children.
This, then, is “the Assad equation,” and dictators around the world must surely be taking note of the increasingly obvious and substantial benefits to the regime of having committed a heinous war crime.

Worse still, there is no sign that the international community’s patience is being particularly tested by how the agreement is playing out. The regime is predictably dragging the process on as long as possible, which they will certainly continue to do, citing any number of plausible-seeming technical and security problems.

Worst of all, and although the West and the United States could not have intended this, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Assad dictatorship regards the chemical weapons-focused process as, in practice, providing cover for an intensification of massive attacks, including of unarmed civilians, by even the fiercest “conventional” weapons.

The ongoing barrel bombing onslaught in Aleppo in which at least 500 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in recent days exemplify this dynamic. International eyebrows are hardly raised by such butchery anymore.

Indeed, the main development in the Western policy conversation since the agreement – the increasing use of heavy weapons against Syrian civilians notwithstanding – has been the emergence of establishment constituencies that openly endorse the survival of the regime as “the least bad option” for the West in Syria.

Today’s will hardly be the last missed deadline or breach of the agreement. An endless string of them may be readily anticipated. Meanwhile, Syria will continue to be immolated as the rest of the world shrugs or, in the case of Russia and Iran, applauds.

As things stand, the “Assad equation” is emerging as a chilling but unmistakable new principle of international relations. And there seems little interest in Washington or other Western capitals in correcting this perilous precedent.

A Al Qaeda Biological Weapons Threat?

Experts warn of “grave danger” to global security over Syrian bioweapons; say Al Qaeda may already possess lethal agents.

 

By Ari Soffer

As international attention in Syria focuses on efforts to dismantle the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpile, British experts are warning of another, potentially more lethal threat.

 

Experts from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) have issued a stark warning over what they say is the “clear and present danger” of Al Qaeda gaining possession of the Assad regime’s stockpile of biological weapons, claiming to have substantial evidence that Al Qaeda-linked groups may already have possession of toxic agents.

 

Unlike chemical weapons, which utilize chemical agents to poison victims, biological weapons make use of diseases, toxins and other contagious agents. Biological weapons have the potential to kill far greater numbers, and are also far harder to detect or protect against.

 

Both are banned under international treaties, but the Syrian government possesses active programs in both fields. However, whilst the use of chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war has been seen on numerous occasions – most notably, but by no means exclusively, during the August 21 attack which killed more than 1,000 people in a number of Damascus suburbs – biological weapons have not been used by either side.

 

That is likely because bioweapons are notoriously difficult to control or contain.

 

But the HJS report, released on Tuesday, says that jihadists in Syria are actively seeking to gain control of the regime’s biological weapons’ stockpile and, chillingly, suggests they may already have done so.

 

The report claims that the Assad regime is losing control of its bioweapons arsenal, in part because it was never centrally-controlled in the way the country’s chemical weapons stockpile has been.

 

“Unlike chemical weapons, maintained in military designated stockpiles which are generally identifiable and which Assad maintains command and control over, the structure of Syria’s biological warfare programs are latent, compartmentalized and spread across its remaining bio-pharmaceutical infrastructure. The programs are designed to be highly agile to allow swift production if required.”

 

Worryingly, the report suggests that the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front may already have possession of “biological pathogens or weaponized agents either of which would pose a threat to the international community.”

 

It points to the widespread looting of bio-pharmasuitical laboratories throughout the country, and cites a “credible eyewitness” as claiming to have personally witnessed “a looted pharmaceutical laboratory,” near Aleppo, where Syria’s biological weapons program is concentrated, “which was probably a cover for a biological weapons production site.”

 

The fact that a Malaysian Al Qaeda operative named as Yazid Sufaat, identified as “Al Qaeda’s primary biological weapon expert”, was arrested in February as he attempted to enter Syria, was said to indicate the clear interest that the group has in developing such a program in the country.

 

Other Al Qaeda branches, most notably in Yemen and North Africa, have previously attempted to obtain such weapons, and the group’s founder, Osama Bin Laden, had expressed an interest in them prior to the infamous 9/11 attacks.

 

While the report does not cite any clear and definitive evidence of Al Qaeda physically possessing biological agents, the circumstantial evidence paints a fairly alarming picture.

 

On the other hand, analysts will find some solace in the fact that neither Al Qaeda nor any other terrorist group has successfully manufactured and deployed biological weapons to lethal effect.

 

But HJS’s Associate Fellow Dr Bellamy van Aalst, a former EU and NATO bio-defence consultant, warned against complacency, in light of the relative availability of already-weaponized and readily-deployable biological weapons in Syria.

 

“Establishing the extent to which Assad may have developed biological WMDs is extremely difficult, given that their production is indistinguishable from benign biological lab processes.

 

“But this is certainly a risk to which we should not turn a blind eye. If Assad has been developing biological weapons, as the evidence suggests, and if those weapons fall into the hands of extremists, global health security could be in grave danger.”

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq Caught Plotting Nerve Gas Attack in the United States

By

mission accomplished

mission accomplished

 

Well that withdrawal from Iraq worked out well. Now Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and can never threaten us again. Obama said so.

But in the real world, Iraqi authorities busted an Al Qaeda cell plotting to carry out a chemical weapons attack using drones. This is really bad news as it combines WMDs and technological sophistication.

Authorities in Iraq say they have uncovered an al-Qaeda plot to use chemical weapons, as well as to smuggle them to Europe and North America.

Defence ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said five men had been arrested after military intelligence monitored their activities for three months.

Three workshops for manufacturing the chemical agents, including sarin and mustard gas, were uncovered, he added.

Remote-controlled toy planes were also seized at the workshops. Mr Askari said they were to have been used to release the chemical agents over the target from a “safe” distance of 1.5km (1 mile)

Troublingly, Turkey busted an Al-Nusra Front cell (Al Qaeda in Syria) that also had  stockpiles of chemical weapons.

On May 30, the Turkish media reported that 12 individuals from the al Qaeda-linked Al Nusrah Front had been captured in antiterror operations in Adana, along with a total of two kilos (4,5 lb) of sarin gas. Five of the 12 suspects were later released; the interrogation of the other seven is ongoing.

While Adana mayor Hüseyin Avni Cos denied that the suspects were captured with sarin gas and warned against labeling them as part of any terror organization, the Turkish mainstream dailies Sabah and Milliyet are reporting today that the suspects were in fact members of the al Qaeda-linked Al Nusrah Front and were captured with sarin gas.

Turkish authorities are denying the nerve gas part of the story, which they have every reason to do as the Islamist regime is deep in bed with Syrian Sunni terrorists.

The Iraqi claim alone might have been written off as propaganda from a Shiite regime, but the addition of the Turkish story tells us we’re dealing with a much bigger problem.

It would appear that Al Qaeda elements in three countries have gotten their hands on chemical weapons out of Syria. The weapons are probably in the pipeline now.

Iraq credited foreign intelligence agencies with alerting them to the problem. That probably means the United States. It’s about the only country that could coordinate busts with Iraq and Turkey. Iraq is obviously jumping on the propaganda opportunities. Turkey, just as obviously, is lying about it. But it’s hard to believe that busting two cells takes all the WMDs out of Al Qaeda’s hands.

We may be headed for a much bigger problem. Yet the eagerness of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria to focus on using chemical weapons to kill Shiites may buy us some time.