Syria Update, September 19, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Current death toll is 108.
Final death toll for September 18, 2012: More than 170, including 112 unarmed civilians.
Aleppo province: The Syrian military shelled the Bustan al-Qasr, al-Fardaws, al-Kalasa and al-Sha`ar neighborhoods. It also shelled the Hanano, al-Sha`r, al-Sakhour neighborhoods. At dawn clashes occurred between the Syrian military and the opposition in Sleiman al-Halabi.
The Syrian military shelled the towns of Batbo, al-Khafsa Mayer, Mare`, Menbej and Reitan today.
Damascus province: Two bombs were detonated in Damascus today, one near a secondary school and the other not far from the first.
Following the Syrian opposition’s retreat from al-Hajar al-Aswad, al-Qadam and al-Asali neighborhoods, the Syrian military shelled these areas, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19645269
and stormed the Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood, destroying and setting houses on fire. It was later reported that Syrian troops executed 40 persons in this neighborhood and in the Yarmouk camp.
Three bodies were found in al-Qadam neighborhood and the bodies of 11 civilians were discovered in al-Jobar. Some had been detained by Syrian military forces.
The Syrian military heavily shelled Jisrin, Mu’adamiyya and al-Yalda. The Syrian military also bombarded Jdaidat Artouz and al-Zabadani.
Dara`a province: Explosions occurred in the Dara`a al-Balad area of the city of Dara`a. The Syrian military used mortars on the Dara`a al-Mahata neighborhood.
The Syrian military shelled the towns of al-Hrak and Nasib, killing two civilians. The Syrian military shelled the town of al-Yaduda and fired on the town of al-Hara where they looted some of the town’s stores.
Deir az-Zur province: The Syrian military heavily shelled the neighborhoods of al-Arfi, al-Jbeila and al-Huweisa causing injuries and destroying homes. Clashes took place between regime and rebel forces in the Kanamat and Khasarat neighbourhoods of Deir az-Zur. A sniper shot a civilian at the perimeter of the Hamoud al-Abboud roundabout.
The Syrian military killed 4 civilians, including a woman, as it shelled the town of Mohsan town and critically wounded others. Clashes took place today at dawn between regime forces and rebel fighters in the al-Boukamal city.
Hama province: A violent explosion shook the neighborhood of Tariq Halab. Syrian military gunfire killed one civilian in the city of Hama. Gunfire was heard in the al-Qusur neighborhood and around the Msha al-Arba`in neighborhood as military reinforcements arrived.
The Syrian military heavily shelled the towns of Hawash, al-Huweiz, and al-Huweija, killing three women in al-Huwaija. The Syrian military also shelled the village of Jabal Shahshbo.
Idlib province: The Syrian military went house to house searching for men wanted for compulsory military duty in the al-Na`our area of the city of Idlib.
The Syrian military shelled the villages and towns of Kafar Yahmoul, Ma`arat Masrin, Ma`arat al-Nu`man, Shalakh, Taftanaz, and Zerdena. A young man died of injuries received in yesterday’s shelling of the town of al-Rami. Regime forces carried out an inspection campaign in search of people wanted for compulsory service in the al-Na’our area of Idlib city.
Latakia province: When the Syrian military raided a home in the Ain Umm Ibrahim neighborhood of Latakia, they killed a woman who tried to prevent them from detaining her son
Clashes reported at al-Haffa. The Syrian military shelled Salma, al-Kinsiba, Babanna and Aljankil. Burj al-Kasab was reported to be in the hands of the opposition today. The Syrian military shelled the villages of Jabal al-Akrad and clashes with the opposition occurred there.
International: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi met with Bashar al-Assad today. Upon his arrival, Salehi said that the solution to the conflict may be found “only in Syria and within the Syrian family.”
Military prosecutors investigating the downing of a Turkish plane by Syria say initial findings show Syria targeted the plane with a long-range missile while it was in international air space. Turkey’s Anadolu agency investigated the downing of a Turkish aircraft on 22 June, 2012 which killed the two pilots and found that the crash was due to a missile blast to the rear of the aircraft. This means that the Syrian military targeted the aircraft with a long-range missile it was in international air space. The Syrian government had claimed that the plane was in Syrian air space and had been fired on by anti-aircraft artillery.
The U.S. Treasury Department called for sanctions today against a state-owned firm in Belarus, Belvneshpromservice of supplying munitions to the Syrian government and also cited the Syrian military’s Army Supply Service under US Excecutive Order 13382. Belvneshpromservice has supplied fuses for aeriel bombs. The Army Supply Bureau was named for its work with the Iranian miitary’s Iran Electronics Industries which has supplied electronic jamming equipment to the Syrian military. Also newly sanctioned is Amr Armanazi, the head of the Scientific Studies Research Center of Syria, the center for Syria’s biological and chemical weaponry and delivery systems. The Treasury Department said that it has identified 117 Iranian airplanes carrying weapons to Syria in violation of sanctions.(BBC above)
According to defected Major-General Adnan Sillu, the Syrian government planned to turn over chemical weapons to Hizbullah as one of its contingency plans, “such as if the regime lost control over an important area, like Aleppo.” (for a discussion of Syria’s known chemical weapons capabilities, see yesterday’s Summary) http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/09/19/238913.html
The U.N. Human Rights Council held interactive discussions* on Syria and other crises in the Middle East (including Yemen and the Sudan).
Syria’s Biological Weapons.
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 as a Nuclear Threat
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.
Syria: A Brief Chronology
1918 October. Troops led by Amir Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca capture Damascus ending Ottoman rule.
1920 March. Faisal is proclaimed the King of Syria.
1920 July. The San Remo conference creates the mandate system placing Syria under the mandate of France. French forces occupy Damascus.
1925-1926. Nationalist uprising known as the Syrian revolution escalates. French forces bombard Damascus, Suwaida and other locations. The rebels led by Sultan al-Atrash go into exile. (Faisal becomes the ruler of Iraq)
1928. A constituent assembly drafts Syria’s constitution.
1936. A treaty between France and Syria is negotiated in which France grants independence but retains military presence and economic management. It is never fully enacted.
1940. After France falls to the Germans, the Vichy government controls Syria.
1941. The Free French and UK forces invade Syria and Lebanon, oust the Vichy government and occupy Syria (and Lebanon).
1946. The French withdraw from Syria.
1947. Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar form the Arab Socialist Ba`ath Party.
1949. Three military coups take place, in the third one, Adib Shishakli assumes power.
1958-1961 Syria and Egypt join in the United Arab Republic under President Gamal abd al-Nasser. A group of Syrian army officers overthrow the UAR in 1961.
1963. A military coup results in a Baathist cabinet and the presidency of Amin al-Hafiz.
1966 Salah Jadid leads a coup against the civilian Baathist government and takes office. Hafez al-Assad is defense minister.
1970. November. Hafez al-Assad overthrows Nur al-Din al-Atasi and puts Salah Jadid in prison.
1971. Hafez al-Assad is elected President in a referendum.
1973. Hafez al-Assad does away with the Constiutitional requirement that Syria’s president be a Muslim. Riots result which were suppressed by the army.
1973. In the October war with Israel, Syria fails to recapture the Golan Heights.
1976. June. Syria intervenes in the Lebanese civil war.
1979 – 1980. A network of Muslim organizations begin an uprising against the government, attack the military and are attacked by the army.
1980. Syria backs Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.
1982. Islamist uprising in the city of Hama is put down brutally, as many as 30,000 civilians are killed.
1982. Israel invades Lebanon and forces the withdrawal of Syrian forces from some areas.
1987. Syria redeploys troops to Lebanon.
1989 December. Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights (CDDFHR) formed in Syria, an underground human rights organization with a newsletter, Sawt al-Dimukratiyya.
1991. Syria participates in the Madrid peace conference, but is shocked by the secret Oslo peace agreements.
1994. Basil al-Assad, the president’s son dies in a car accident.
1998. Rifaat al-Assad, the vice president and president’s brother is relieved of his position.
2000. Hafez al-Assad dies and is succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad despite the fact that Syria is a republic.
2000-1 In the Damascus Spring, intellectuals, artists and writers began meeting and discussing politics in groups like the Kawakibi Forum, the Atassi Forum and the National Dialogue Forum which called for an end to emergency laws and restoration of political freedoms.
2002 Bashar al-Assad and his team, especially Hasan Khalil, the head of military intelligence began a crackdown on the dialogue groups, closing them and arresting their members, incarcerating, torturing and killing them.
2002 The United States alleges that Syria is developing chemical and possibly nuclear weapons.
2003 The CDDFHR held its first public meeting in Cairo. It later opened 9 offices outside of Syria, in the Middle East and Europe.
2003 Israel carries out a air strike on a Palestinian militant camp near Damascus.
2004 March. Clashes take place between Kurds, Arabs and regime forces in the northeast of Syria.
2004 September. The U.N. Security Council calls for all foreign forces to leave Lebanon, a resolution directed at Syria.
2005 Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri is assassinated. In April, Syria finally withdraws its forces from Lebanon.
2006 Iraq and Syria restore relations.
2007 Syrian dissidents Kamal Labwani and Michel Kilo are sentenced to lengthy terms in Jail and Anwar al-Bunni, a human rights lawyer is sent to jail.
2007 September. Israel carries out an air strike on an area in northern Syria where a nuclear facility had been under construction.
2008 July. Bashar al-Assad meets with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and re-establishes relations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
2009 The IAEA says it has found undeclared man-made uranium at a reactor in Damascus.
2010 The U.S. reinstates sanctions against Syria because of its support for terrorist groups and provision of SCUD missiles to Hizbullah.
2011 March Peaceful protests begin in Syria to demand political freedom and the release of political prisoners.
2011 May. The Syrian government begins a military crackdown on the protests targeting Homs, Banyas, Dara`a and areas of Damascus.
2011 October. The Syrian National Council brings together dissidents from outside and inside of Syria. Russia and China veto a U.N resolution condemning Syria.
2011 November. The Arab League votes to suspend Syria due to the governments attacks on its own civilians.
2012 May. Government forces and militia members massacre more than 100 in Houla.
2012 July. The Free Syrian Army increases military actions and seizes parts of Aleppo and Damascus. The Syrian military struggle to retake these areas.
2012 August 15 The Organisation of the Islamic Conference suspends Syria due to its attacks on its citizens.
2012 August. The Syrian military and militia members massacre more than 500 people in the town of Daraya over two and a half days.
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.