Syria Update, September 26, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

27 Sep

Syria Update, September 26, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur

Current death toll: More than 258 Syrians were killed today, including 130 unarmed civilians.

Revised death toll for September 25, 2012: 240 Syrians killed including 151 unarmed civilians.

Despite false reports that the Syrian opposition has been heavily armed by foreign sources, it lacks weapons and heavy arms and is trying to craft its own ammunition.

Maya Nasser, a Syrian journalist who worked for Iran’s Press TV. While Press TV claimed he was killed by “insurgent sniper fire,” in fact, most snipers are being paid by the Syrian security services.

Aleppo province: The Syrian military shelled the Tariq al-Bab neighborhood. Clashes between the Syrian military and the opposition took place in al-Ashrafiyya, al-Sakhour and al-Zahra. A sniper shot a civilian in al-Sakhour. A sniper killed a child from Halab al-Jadida on the Awrm al-Kubra road. A sniper shot a person in al-Ansari. The Syrian military shelled the neighborhoods of al-Fardaws, al-Mshatiya and Maysalun.

The Syrian military shelled the town of Qubtan al-Jabal and the town of Kafrnouran, killing an adult and a child.

Damascus province: Two explosions erupted near the Syrian Arab Army’s General Headquarters, engulfing two floors of the building in flames. Two IEDs exploded just before 7:00 a.m. Syrian state television has stated that four security guards were killed, and at least 14 were injured, whereas the opposition claims that dozens were killed.
40 dead bodies were discovered in the town of al-Thiyabiyya. 28 of them have so far been identified. The Syrian military shelled the city of Duma, killing a man, his 12 year old child, his wife, a 15 year old child, a woman and 2 men. In Zamalka and Mu`adamiyya, two unidentified dead civilians were found. The Syrian military shelled the towns of al-Ebada, al-Eteibiyya, Hamouriyya, al-Qasimya, al-Qeysa, Yabrud and the eastern Ghuta.
The towns of Yabrud, Hamouriya, al-Qasmiya, al-Eteibiya, al-Qeysa, al-Ebada, and the eastern Ghouta.

Dara`a province: The Syrian military heavily shelled the towns of al-Karak al-Sharqi, al-Mzeirab, Tafas, Tel Shehab and al-Yaduda. Explosionas rocked the town of Taseel. Two opposition fighters were killed in an ambush near the town of Um Walad. A woman died in Tafas from her wounds as a result of bombardment by the Syrian military yesterday. A corpse was discovered in the town of Sanamein. A defected soldier was shot in his home in the countryside of Dara`a province.

Deir az-Zur province: Clashes were ongoing since morning in the city of Deir az-Zur. 21 persons were summarily executed in al-Joura neighborhood of Deir az-Zur including a child. 5 civilians were killed when the Judicial Coordination general registration department in the city of Deir Az-Zur was targeted. A sniper shot a civilian in al-Qusur. Regime-paid sniper fire killed one in al-Qusur. Shelling killed three persons when the city of Deir az-Zur was targeted.

When the Syrian military shelled the city of Boukamal, one was killed.

Homs province: Thirteen civilians were summarily executed in the al-Bayada neighborhood of al-Gento and Talkalah. Syrian military at checkpoints in al-Hula several injuries and the destruction of houses. The Syrian military is bombarding the city of al-Hula. The city of al-Rastan is being bombarded by regime foces which led to several injuries.

Idlib province: The Syrian military heavily shelled the towns of Bsheiriyya, Bazabour, Deir Sanbal Ihsim, Jabal al-Wastani, Kafarsanjan, Kafartkharim, Ma`arat al-Nu`man, Sanqeel,. A woman traveling from the town of Balyan was killed by a sniper today. A young girl who had not received international treatment what she received.

Latakia province: Violent clashes took place, between Syrian regime forces and rebel fighters, in various villages of the Turkman mountain, which have been inder bombardment by regime forces.

Refugees: Mahmud Omush, the head of the Zaatari refugee camp in Syria said that a school structure is being prepared to teach 4,000 Syrian children at the camp and is to open on October 20th. A spokesperson from Jordan’s Ministry of Education said that other schools will be built at the camp and that 110 teachers have been chosen to join the camp.
Near opposition-controlled Atme, many refugees are camped, hoping to cross over to Turkey because for the last 31 days, the border has been closed to them. Each day, Turkish soldiers allow a very limited number, anywhere from 20 to several hundred persons to cross over.


President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt prefaced his speech to the United Nations General Assembly with a brief statement about the Prophet Muhammad whom Muslims love and respect in an implicit reproach to those who have disrespected him and followed with a call to the assembled to help end the violence in Syria.

President Marzouki of Tunisia said that Tunisia would support an Arab peacekeeping force in Tunisia in a statement to AFP (Agence France Press) while at the UN General Assembly meeting

Hizbullah in Lebanon is increasingly providing support to the Syrian regime in its battle against the Syrian popular revolution. Hizbullah members are being slain in the conflict and their obituaries are not revealing the cause of death. rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the suburbs of Homs.

UK prime minister, David Cameron has called on world leaders to do more to stop the atrocities being committed by the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. He referred to the shocking report by Save the Children which documents childrens’ experiences in Syria.

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:

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: