Syria Update, September 29, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Death toll: More than 94
Friday’s revised death toll: More than 160 including 104 unarmed civilians.
A report from Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) from Syria:
Aleppo province: A major fire engulfed the medieval markets, a tourist attraction in the city of Aleppo sparked by clashes between the Syrian military and the opposition. Many shops were destroyed and some were still burning this morning. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/29/syria-crisis-idUSL5E8KT1VJ20120929?type=marketsNews
Clashes between the Syrian military and the opposition took place in the neighborhoods of Bab Antaya, al-Itha’a, Karm al-Beik, al-Kura al-Ardiyya, the al-Jandoul roundabout, al-Midan, al-Sakhour, Tariq al-Bab, and near the al-Nayrab military airport. Mortars fired at the airport damaged 2 helicopters. Clashes also occurred near the al-Madfa’iyya artillery school and a building nearby was shelled by the opposition and then burned. Shelling on Karam al-Jabal killed three persons. A sniper shot a civilian in Sleiman al-Halabi.
The Syrian military shelled the towns of Anadan, Hreitan, Kafar Hamra and Tell Rifa`at.
Damascus province: Tonight it was reported that the Syrian military were carrying out arbitrary raids and arrests in the al-Qadam neighborhood. Many have fled the area of Barzeh due to raids by the Syrian military and clashes there. The opposition attacked a Syrian military checkpoint in al-Asali, killing 2 Syrian military troops.
Eight persons were summarily executed in al-Qudsiyya. The Syrian military executed five people in the town of Maaraba. The Syrian military executed 15 people in the town of al-Baytariyya. Heavy clashes took place in the town of al-Hjeira. The Syrian military heavily shelled the town of Artouz and the town of Saqba, killing a man in Saqba.
Dara`a province: The Syrian military overran the Shamali neighborhood in the town of al-Mozeyrib, and surrounded the town. Many were killed in clashes in the area around the town and subsequently the opposition withdrew from Mozeyrib. Reportedly, an opposition IED attack on their bus, killed 15 Syrian military troops. Heavy clashes took place in Tafas, which like Mozeirab also came under heavy shelling. The Syrian military also shelled the al-Lijah area.
Deir az-Zur: The Syrian military heavily shelled the eastern districts of the city of Deir az-Zur today. The Syrian military stormed the neighborhoods of Jbeila and Ba’ajeen in the city of Deir az-Zur and carried out raids and arrests there.
The Syrian military bombarded the towns of al-Muhasan and al-Mre’iyya, causing injuries and damaging homes.
Hassakeh province: The Syrian military forces fired on civilians from checkpoints near the Masakin al-Zubbat (officers resiences) in the city of al-Qamishli, injuring civilians today.
Hama province: The Syrian military shelled the towns of Erfa and Rebda.
Homs province: Clashes raged between the opposition and the Syrian military and regime-backed militias near the villages of al-Ghasaniyya and al-Heidariyya. The Syrian military heavily shelled al-Rastan.
Idlib province: The villages of eastern Ma’arat al-Nu’man were shelled by the Syrian military and electricity has been cut off. The Syrian military shot a man from the area of Jisr al-Shughour. The Syrian military heavily shelled the town of Sarmin.
Latakia province: The opposition has learned that the Syrian state security branch in the city of Latakia detained Salim al-Rifa`i on the 20th of September, 2102 and charged him with being in contact with a terrorist organization, referring him on to Damascus. Al-Rifa`I is a humanitarian aid activist working with refugees and not a member of an armed group.
The Syrian military shelled the villages of Beit A’wan, Jabal al-Akrad, al-Khadra, al-Qneitra and Jabal al-Turkman. Heavy clashes took place in the village of al-Khadra.
Al-Raqqa province: The Hamam al-Turkman town of Reef al-Raqa was bombarded by regime forces, leading to several injuries.
Tartous province: The Syrian military have stormed through the Wata al-Bayda area in Banyas city carrying out raids and arrests.
Refugees: Syria’s refugees discuss their fear and their pain.
Photographs above and videos in the link below: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/AP-VIDEO-Syrian-refugees-discuss-their-pain-fear-3905389.php
International: Ireland’s Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore spoke to the United nations General Assembly last night and urged members of the UN Security Council to levy sanctions on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. He said the situation in Syria is “an affront to humanity” which requires a “clear and unrelenting” response. Delivering Ireland’s address to the UN General Assembly last night, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0929/breaking1.html
Al-Arabiyya claims that secret documents show that the Syrian government executed two Turkish pilots who survived a crash on June 22, when their F-4 Phantom was shot down by Syrian military. http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/09/29/240805.html
Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program
Syria’s chemical weapons program dates back to 1973 when Syria obtained mustard and sarin from Egypt. It is one of the strongest programs in the Middle East region. Syria’s current chemical weapons development is being supervised by Iranian scientists. Ever since 1989, the focus of the program has been on improving the accuracy and distance of potential strikes via the delivery system. Six years ago, Syria possessed 100 to 200 sarin-filled warheads (in 2008) there may be more today.
There is no strong evidence that Iraq’s chemical weapons were moved to Syria (although there is no proof they were not, one may surmise that Syria’s CW program is robust on its own).
Syria obtained the design for the Soviet Scud warhead using VX back in the 1970s. It appears that Syria has the capabilities to produce CW agents on its own; it has procued nonpersistent nerve gas since 1984. There is confirmation of its possession of sarin since 1986. Syria’s CW program began with CERS, its Scientific Study and Research Center in Damascus and later, plants in al-Safira, Hama and Homs were established.
By 1987, Syria had sarin-filled warheads on Scud missiles and since then its focus is to increase range and effectiveness of strike capability. After 1997, Syria obtained warhead that could be fitted with bomblet-filled cluster heads and Syria worked to develop V-agents. There appear to be stockpiles of mustard and sarin and the country may have between 100 and 200 Scuds fitted with sarin warheads. As well as sarin and mustard to use in artillery shells or other air-dropped forms. Syria recently conducted a missile test (in August of 2012); Iranians were reported to be present for the tests. Iran and Syria had signed a defense cooperation agreement in June of 2006.
Syria’s Biological Weapons Program
Syria is a signatory to the Biological Toxic Weapons Convention, but has not ratified that Convention. While its chemical weapons program is very advanced, its biological weapons program is also quite robust.
Israeli and German sources state that Syria has botulinum toxin, ricin and Bacillus anthracis, and some other sources state that Syria also has plague, smallpox, aflotoxin, cholera, camelpox and tularemia. Syria then, possesses A, B, and C pathogens and toxins. Syria has advanced pharmaceutical capabilities and thus could have (and according to some accounts has) obtained dual use equipment needed for pharmaceutical and defense research and development. It has research centers in Damascus and Aleppo. Certain U.S. sources are certain that Syria can produce anthrax and botulism, but what was not known is whether it has a formal program to develop delivery systems for these weapons. A 2004 Swedish Defense Agency report said there was no evidence of a defensive or offensive biological weapons program in Syria. However, the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the CIA, and the DIA have stated opinions to the contrary as have scientists and specialists. Other experts believe that Syria’s CERS (Scientific Studies and Research Center) has the capabilities and expertise to work on these systems, probably involving the use of drones and UAVs, or adapting warheads and cluster munitions to deliver the biological agents.(Cordesman, 2008) Russian advisors are said to be working with the biological warfare program. An American expert contends that there was a transfer from the Iraqi biological warfare (defensive and offensive programs), namely the camelpox virus.
Cordesman claimed that there were some indications that biological variations on ZAB-incendiary bombs and PTAB 500 cluster bombs and Scud warheads were being tested. Syria is technologically capable of designing adapted delivery systems which would have “the effectiveness of small theater nuclear weapons.” However he also noted that the Nuclear Threat Initiative held a far more restrained view of Syria’s capabilities in BW development.
A detailed, but accessible interview with Jill Dekkar is here:
Syria’s Nuclear Program and Development
Syria is a non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Syria signed the NPT in 1968 and ratified it in 1969. Syria has a Comprehensive Nuclear Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Syria’s nuclear program began with nuclear physicist Abdullah Watiq Shaid who became minister of higher education in 1967. When the Scientific Studies and Research Center was established in 1969, Shahid became its director-general. The SSRC became the research facility to develop weapons for the Syrian army. For some time, its focus was on chemical and biological weapons, unusually housing chemistry, biology and armament departments together and using the cover that it was working on pollution and water purification. Chemical munitions were a major product.
The Syrian Atomic Energy Commission was created in 1979, and thereafter directed the nuclear research effort. Since 1979-1980, it studied nuclear power options, and the IAEA assisted the Commission since 1982, and in 1986 creating a facility which recovered yellowcake uranium from phosphoric acid, as Syria is an exporter of phosphoric acid-based fertilizers. With assistance from the IAEA, Syria acquired a cyclotron in 1996 and an ion-beam accelerator in 1997.
Syria tried to purchase reactors from various countries, including Argentina, but that sale was blocked by the U.S. In 1991 the Chinese constructed Syria’s research reactor at Dayr al-Hajar, a Miniature Neutron Source Reactor, not suitable for producing nuclear weapons.
Syria signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran in 1992 and a plan for (civil) nuclear cooperation with Russia in 1998. In 2004, Syria was thought to be negotiating with A.Q. Khan’s network. On April 22, 2004, an enormous explosion destroyed a North Korean freight train apparently transporting many Syrian nuclear technicians who had come to collect fissionable material. In Operation Orchard, The Israeli Air Force bombed the al-Kibar site in Syria on September 6, 2007, a building in northwestern Syria which was a reactor producing plutonium that had been built with North Korean support.
The Syrian government has denied these allegations. It allowed the IAEA to visit the site and take environmental which revealed the presence of man-made uranium and other elements suggesting that a reactor had been there. For three years Syria refused to cooperate sufficiently with the IAEA. The IAEA stated in May of 2011 “that it is very likely that the building destroyed at the Deir Azzour site was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the Agency.” In June of 2011, the IAEA found Syria noncompliant and referred the case to the United Nations Security Council.
International concern circles around the fact that Syria had a concealed program and reactor, and therefore it may have been working secretly on other aspects of its program, or in other locations. The second major concern is that Syria has considered its chemical weapons to be a counterweight to Israel’s superiority in conventional weapons and thus an integral part of its offensive capabilities. The third major concern is what may happen to materials or facilities (as with BW and CW) in the case of regime change.
As for delivery systems for any nuclear weapons, Syria possesses several hundred Scud model B, C, and D missiles, and perhaps a thousand SS-21 missiles in addition to other airborne delivery (aircraft)systems. There is some evidence that Syria has had foreign assistance in upgrading its Scud model B missiles.
Basic Facts about Syria:
Population: 22,530,746 Ethnicities: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Isma`iliyya, Druze) 16%, Christian 10%, Jewish (very small numbers).
Human Rights Situation in Syria 2012: http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-syria
GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011) GDP: $64.7 billion GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011)
Unemployment: 8.3% Youth Unemployment (ages 15-24): 19.1% (female unemployment in that age category is 49.1%
Internet Users: 4.469 million (2009)Exchange Rate: 46.456 Syrian pounds per US dollar
Military Expenditures: 5.9% of GDP (2005)
Population Growth Rate: -0797.% (since the conflict)
Population Age Structure: 0-14 years: 35.2%; 15-64 years: 61%; 65 years and over: 3.8%
Literacy: male 86% female 73.6%
Urban Population: 56% of total (2010)
Syrian Arab Army (prior to the conflict) 220,000 regular and 280,000 reserves. Of the 200,000 career soldiers, 140,000 are Alawi.
Syria’s Golan Heights is occupied by Israel and 1,000 members of a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force patrol a buffer zone.