Syria Update, September 20, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

21 Sep

Syria Summary September 20, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Death toll: 203, including 104 unarmed civilians.

Yesterday’s revised death toll: More than 200.

Aleppo province: Abd al-Baset Janid al-Ahmadi, leader of an opposition battalion was killed in Aleppo near Qal`at Halab
The Syrian military shelled a bakery in al-Mourjah, injuring several people.

The Syrian military shelled the neighborhoods of al-Halak and Karm al-Jabal. A sniper killed a civilian in al-Midan, and another civilian was killed in shelling on the al-Sleimaniyya neighborhood.

The Syrian military violently shelled al-Atarbi, al-Bab, Baza`a, Darat Izza, Kafar Hamra, and Tal Raf`at. A woman died of wounds suffered in shelling on Darat Izza.

Damascus province: The Syrian military shelled the Yarmouk camp, killing three persons.

The helicopter which went down near Duma (and reportedly grazed an aircraft with 200 passengers) was actually shot down by the opposition, although Syrian state television simply said it “crashed.”

A protest for the martyrs was held in Daraya last night

The Syrian military has been shelling al-Buwaida, Duma, Mu`adamiyyat al-Sham, and al-Thiyabiyya. Syrian military shelling killed 8 in the city of Duma. Syrian military shelling killed a civilian in the town of Arba`een and one in al-Mu`adamiyya.

Opposition fighters created the Military Council in the Eastern Ghouta today.

The Syrian military has been firing from the barracks in the town of Qatana, injuring civilians.

Dara`a province: The Syrian military has been shelling the town of Da’el, destroying homes there. The Syrian military was reported to be firing indiscriminately from barracks in the towns of Inkhil, Tafas and al-Yaduda.

Hama province:

A funeral was held in Mawrik for Ibrahim Imad Swaydan

Hassake province: An opposition fighter assassinated Mr. Mohammad Wali near the Local Council in Ra’s al-Ain. Mr. Wali was a member of the General Secretariat of the Kurdish Council and a leader of the Harakat Shabab al-Thawra.

A demonstration was held last night in Amouda

Homs province: The Syrian military shelled the neighborhoods of Jourat al-Shiyah and Homs al-Qadima. The Syrian military have also been firing from the barracks in the al-Mal`ab neighborhood.

The Syrian military bombarded the town of Hula, killing two civilians.

Idlib province: The Syrian military have been heavily shelling Ihsim, Taftanaz and Sirmeen.

Raqqa province:

Several reports claim that most of the governate is in the hands of the opposition.

There were reports of heavy gunfire in the city of al-Raqqa and that the Syrian military was moving through the streets. Evening protests took place.

Yesterday’s shelling of a petrol station near Ain Issa caused many casualties, and reports varied widely. Some current reports claim 70 were killed; others that 56, or 30 were killed.

Violent clashes between the Syrian military and the opposition took place in the city of Tal Abyad. The opposition had taken control of the government buildings in the city.

Bashar al-Assad has an upcoming interview in al-Ahram al-Arabi, published in Egypt. He attacked Saudi Arabia, Turkey ad Qatar, saying that they armed the Syrian rebels, but they will not prevail. He accused “them” of “buying history,” and said the idea that Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt are the cornerstone of regional stability is false.

A Libyan fighting in Aleppo province symbolizes fears of jihadists in Syria and Assad’s accusations about foreign terrorists. But he hopes to help Syrians.

Borders: The Syrian military fought to try to regain the border post, Tal al-Abyad, which the opposition had seized on Wednesday and wounded two Turkish civilians were wounded by shell fragments.

Members of the U.N. Security Council criticized Iran for its arms shipments to Syria
The “Friends of Syria” sanctions working group opened on Thursday as diplomats from 60 countries and the Arab League met in The Hague. They have agreed to strengthen sanctions on the Syrian regime and travel bans on members of Assad’s family and his officials.

The UN’s World Food Program has pleaded for greater access to war-torn areas of Syria saying it cannot assess the needs of aid in those areas where the conflict is raging said Abeer Etefa, an agency spokesperson.

Syria’s governates (provinces), major cities and population (size) for each:

Syria’s Chemical Weaponry

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.
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.

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:

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.

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