Syria Update, October 3, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Death toll: More than 190 Syrians killed today including 112 unarmed civilians.
Turkey fires in Syria after Syrian mortars kill 5 in Turkey. NATO convened to discuss the matter. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/03/us-syria-crisis-idUSBRE88J0X720121003
Syria suicide bombers kill 34 and injure 120 near Aleppo’s Saadallah al-Jabiri square. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/03/syria-suicide-bombs-34-aleppo?intcmp=239
Aleppo province: 48 persons were killed by 4 suicide bombs this morning and more than 100 were wounded. The Syrian military heavily shelled the al-Sakhour neighborhood and regime forces tried to storm the neighborhood. The Syrian military shelled al-Kallasa, Salahaddin, al-Sha`ar and al-Sukkari. Heavy clashes took place in Bustan al-Basha resulting in casualties. Heavy clashes also took place in Sleiman al-Halabi. A number of members of the Syrian security forces were killed while attempting to dismantle an explosives-laden car in the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Jamayliya. Tonight, the Syrian military shelled Bab al-Nasr, B’eidin, Bustan al-Basha, Haydariyya, al-Heik and al-Marjeh, and 10 persons were killed in Haydariyya. Clashes took place near the al-Nayrab airport.
The Syrian military shelled the towns of Manbaj and Hreitan. Pro-regime shabiha killed an opposition fighter in al-Zahra.
Damascus province: Explosions were reported in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood. The Syrian military carried out operations killing 11 persons in Dahiyat Qudsayya and one among the slain was a child. A rocket landed on a pro-regime neighborhood in Qudsayya
The Syrian military shelled Harasta, Haza, and al-Zabadani, where 20 were injured. The artillery shelling on al-Hama and Qudsiyya was revived and three were killed in Qudsiyya. The FSA downed a helicopter in the eastern al-Ghuta.
Dara`a province: The Syrian military killed four people in a refugee camp and set their bodies on fire. The Syrian military resumed shelling of the town of Tel Shihab. Syrian military fired from checkpoints in the town of Shaykh Miskeen. The Syrian military heavily shelled Busr al-Harir, Inkhil and al-Lijah, following defections from the military in this area. A sniper killed a child in Dara`a. The Syrian military shelled Tel Shihab and Busra al-Sham Syrian military at checkpoints in al-Yaduda fired their weapons without caution, hitting civilians.
Deir az-Zur province: The Syrian military heavily shelled the al-A’mal neighbourhood of Deir az-Zur. A demonstration took place in the town of Hajin calling for freedom.
Hama province: The Syrian military resumed its shelling on al-Sehn, where 8 people were killed at noon by helicopter bombardment on that village, and 16 have so far been killed including 5 women and 3 children in that attack and artillery firing. 3 summarily executed young men were found in the town of Zeizoun. The Syrian military fired from their checkpoints in the Arba`in neighborhood and shelling on Arb`in in western Sahl al-Ghab killed a woman and her two children. The Syrian military shelled the town of Kafarzeita and the eastern outskirts of Salamiyya. Syrian military shelling on the town of Jarjasiyya killed 3 men and injured 14. 3 summarily executed young men were found in the town of Zeizoun. The Syrian military raided the town of Mas`oud.
Homs province: The Syrian military heavily shelled the city of al-Rastan.
Idlib province: The Syrian military shelled the village of Jabal al-Zawiya. Syrian military at checkpoints in the town of Saraqeb shot indiscriminately, injuring civilians. A large explosion rocked the village of Qeiqoun in Jisr al-Shughour and an opposition fighter was killed in clashes in Jisr al-Shughour. In clashes in the town of Bedama, the opposition killed 15 Syrian military troops.
Latakia province: The opposition took over the town of Younsiya. The opposition clashed with the Syrian military in the town of Zainiyeh. Clashes took place in al-Qurdaha, the hometown of Hafiz al-Assad, wounding many people.
Quneitra province: The Syrian military shelled the town of Jebatha al-Khashab and the village of Trenja, both on the ceasefire line in the Syrian Golan.
Al-Raqqa province: Several mortar shells fell on a military checkpoint near the town of Tal Abiad and Turkish military reinforcements arrived opposite Tal Abiad which had been heavily shelled by the Syrian military. The Syrian military shelled 4 opposition fighters in the city of Tabqa at dawn.
International: Britain’s foreign minister William Hague denounced the Syrian shelling of a Turkish border town, Akcakale that killed five civilians including a mother and her three children. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton also expressed outrage at the attack.
Al-Arabiyya’s leaked documents reiterate a claim that a Russian officer, Vladimir Kojeve, was killed in Syria in August. The documents include Kojeve’s ID card and a picture of his Mazda vehicle.
NATO convened and issued a statement in which the alliance stands by Turkey.
Turkey requested that the United Nations Security Council action to stop Syrian aggression and “respect its territorial sovereignty,” and has fired back (see above.).
Arab and Latin Ameircan leaders met at a summit in Peru and agreed to form a joint investment bank. They discussed the Syrian conflict at this meeting.
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.