Syria Update, November 19, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Early death toll: 102 killed today, of these 30 civilians.
Sunday’s death toll: at least 83 were killed including 40 civilians
Defection: A diplomatic attaché, Houda Ourfali, at Syria’s embassy in China announced her defection, saying she can no longer represent a “bloody and illegitimate regime.”
Aleppo province: The regiment 46 base of Assad’s military finally fell to the opposition after two months of fighting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1sruMU301Zk
A sniper killed a civilian in Halab al-Jadida and the Syrian military shelled the Sukkari neighborhood killing one.
A video was uploaded of hardline groups say they will not adhere to the Qatar agreement, will not recognize the National Coalition, that they want to establish an Islamic state and will not recognize foreign agendas.
However, it seems that grouping did not have the authority to speak for the Tawhid Brigade or Ahrar al-Sham – and only represents the views of the Nusra Front
In Atareb, the opposition are taking over ammunition in a Syrian military outpost they have taken: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmv-YxwAz-k&feature=player_embedded
The Syrian military carried out raids on the town of al-Safira and killed 7 persons.
Damascus province: 3 civilians were killed and more than 10 others were injured by the rebel IED attack targeting a civilian minibus that works the (Damascus-Qudseyya Masakin al-Haras) line near Mashru` Dummar. Two units of Ansar al-Islam and Jund Allah said they have seized the Air Defense Battalion base near Hajar al-Aswad after the last four days of fighting. 1 man from Yarmouk was killed int the Mezzeh area. The Syrian military killed one man in al-Qabun. Extremely heavy shelling caused civilians in Harasta to flee.
The opposition assassinated the governor of the al-Nabk area, Abdullah al-Dar’awi and 4 police officers. Security forces carried out raids in the area after this.
The Syrian military shelled Duma, killing 10 civilians and Daraya, Bebila, Jisreen, al-Maliha and the eastern Ghouta. Clashes in the town of al-Buwaida resulted in the deaths of 5 opposition fighters. The Syrian military killed one opposition fighter in Tadamun.
Dar`a province: The Syrian military shelled the town of Soura, killing one. An unidentified body was discovered near Namer.
Deir az-Zur province: A sniper shot Ayham al-Shuwayla in the Mu’athafin neighborhood of Deir az-Zur.
First Lieutenant Ismael Musa al-Taya of the FSA was killed in clashes in the al-Omal neighborhood of Deir az-Zur.
Civilians were killed yesterday in a gas pipeline explosion in the al-Tabiya area.
Homs province: In the south of the country and on the Lebanese border, the opposition’s tactics are covered in this report by the Christian Science Monitor
The Syrian military shelled the town of al-Rastan causing casualties today.
Idlib province: The Syrian military killed 7 civilians in shelling on Abu al-Zuhur. A sniper killed one person in Jisr al-Shughour. The Syrian military shelled Heish, killing one person, and shelled Ma’arshamsha, killing one opposition fighter. Violent clashes took place at Ma`arat al-Nu`man, controlled by the opposition for several weeks. The Syrian military bombarded it by air. The opposition shot down a helicopter and destroyed two tanks in the city of Ma`arat al-Nu`man today.
Hassake province: A sniper from the opposition forces assassinated Abed Khalil, the president of a Kurdish popular council in Ra’s al-`Ain today. 6 opposition fighters were killed in clashes with the Kurdish popular defense units. The Ghurba’ al-Sham battalion was involved.
Latakia province: 8 rebel fighters and 4 regular soldiers were killed by clashes in the villages in Jabal al-Turkman. Shelling on the town of Salma killed 2 men. The FSA destroyed an Assad outpost near Jabal Qastal in Latakia.
Refugees: Jordan is preparing a third camp for Syrian refugees in Ramtha. http://jordantimes.com/jordan-prepares-for-third-syrian-camp-amid-rising-refugee-influx
International: The European Union’s 27 foreign ministers have recognized the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition formed on 11 November as the “legitimate representatives’ of the Syrian people.
Italy has recognized the National Coalition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.
Cunayt Unal was turned over to Turkish authorities on Saturday. Cunal, a journalist who worked for the U.S.-funded al-Hurra television channel, went missing with Jordanian colleague Bashar Fahmi shortly after crossing into Syria from Turkey on August 20. He was captured by government troops.
Germany’s defense minister, Thomas de Maiziere said that Germany expsts Turkey to formally request the placement of NATO missiles on its borders. Earlier it was reported this would occur on Monday. Patriot missiles may be requested. Only Germany and the Netherlands have Patriot missiles.
The new National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition announced that it will be based in Egypt.
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.