Syria Update, January 22, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Today’s early death toll: More than 60 including 23 civilians.
Monday’s death toll: More than 210 including 68 civilians
Seven civilians were killed in Homs on December 23rd, either by a “riot control” form of “poison gas” or by use of a chemical weapon depending on one’s definition of the still unknown substance. Some details by doctors conflicted with details in a secret cable concerning the use of this substance. The US State Dept issued the cable but also denied that chemical weapons were involved. http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/01/22/secret_syria_chemical_weapons_cable_revealed
New footage has surfaced of the targeting of the University of Aleppo. This belies the claim that the damage was done by a car bomb and the FSA does not possess this type of weaponry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eka1FK_iJIU
President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has put together a new paramilitary force of men and women, some trained by Iranian personnel to fight what the regime calls a “guerilla war.” The new force has been named the National Defense Army and includes popular committee militia members who had been protecting pro-regime areas from the opposition. Most of the fighters are members of the Ba`th party; they include about 500 women, men and members of various religious sects. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Jan-21/203174-syria-builds-paramilitary-force-aided-by-iran-activists.ashx#axzz2IkiEAJjF
The National Coordination body of the Syrian opposition proposed on Monday that the Assad government should admit responsibility for recent violence, in particular the shelling of the University of Aleppo which killed some 82 students. It proposed that both sides should cease violence; that political prisoners be released, that a transitional government be formed which should choose a new president, and that refugees be assisted to return to their homes.
Refugees: The IRC Refugees Commission report for January 2013 is here:
At least 12,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan over the last six days.
Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
A regime sniper killed 5 civilians near the Huzeifa bin al-Yaman mosque in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo. In clashes in Karm al-Jabal, one opposition fighter was killed. A mortar fell on a youth residence in Aleppo killing a young woman from Kafarkalbeen. An unidentified body bearing marks of torture was found near the Jisr al-Haj roundabout. Mortars were used in the shelling of a building in Salahaddin, killing one and injuring others.
Clashes occurred near the Managh military airport, where both sides reported losses. The opposition is pinning its hopes on taking over this airbase. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/22/world/syria-final-battle-for-north/?hpt=hp_bn2
The town of Khan al-Asal was bombarded, and clashes took place near the police academy and regime checkpoints.
The Syrian military used intense artillery shelling on Safeera yesterday and targeted a children’s nursery where displaced persons were housed, causing many injuries.
Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Tensions remain high in Yarmouk camp where clashes took place. The Syrian military shelled Douma, Daraya and Mu`adamiyyat al-Sham today, openly admitting in al-Watan that it is using air power on the opposition.
An explosion rocked the district of Dumar on Monday, resulting in casualties. Yesterday also saw continuous artillery shelling of Mu’adamiyah from the 14th division location.
A Youtube video of a young boy being tortured after being detained by Syrian military in the Masaken Barzeh area appeared.
The Syrian air force bombarded the town of Bala killing 8 civilians — 5 children, 2 women and a man. A car bomb exploded in the al-Sikka area of al-Sabina.
Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Here shabiha shoot at a van being used to transport wounded and killed from the side of the road. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKivFeS1Hhw&feature=youtu.be
Violent clashes are taking place between regime forces and opposition factions in the Tariq al-Sad neighborhood of Dara`a, whilst the regime forces are bombarding that area. A sniper killed a child in the town of Busr al-Harir and regime helicopters bombarded that town, also the town of al-Shajara and al-Tasil.
The Syrian military shelled the town of Yaduda using artillery yesterday, at least six mortar shells fell.
Activist Muhammad al-Masalmah was gunned down in Dara`a yesterday by a regime sniper. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47S0pg1JLCs&feature=youtu.be
Deir az-Zur province:
The Syrian military continued its bombardment of the neighbhorhoods of Deir az-Zor yesterday and today. Dawoud al-Khraykah Abu Sulaiman was killed yesterday.
The following footage from the countryside of Deir az-Zur province shows regime forces desecrating the bodies of opposition fighters.
Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD
1 civilian was killed in Hama province today.
A deadly blast in Salmiyya was attributed to a suicide bomber yesterday which was targeting a branch of the Popular Committees, a pro-regime militia, operating out of aan old carpet factory. 42 people were killed, approximately 30 members of the Popular committees and others were civilians.
The Syrian military resumed artillery and rocket shelling of Lattameneh yesterday from the Deir Mhardeh checkpoint. The Syrian military also shelled Kafarzeita, injuring many and used surface-to-air missiles from the Hama military airport onto various towns of the suburbs of Hama, yesterday.
Nine wounded opposition fighters arrived at the hospital of the Turkish border town, Ceylanpınar.
Heavy clashes in Ra’s al-`Ain (Serekaniyeh) continued for more than 4 hours; the opposition used 3 tanks and mortars against the Kurdish Defense Units. A mortar killed two children in the city on Monday. The assault on Ra’s al-`Ain began on January 16th and thus far, 56 [opposition] fighters have been killed.
Thirteen regular troops were killed in Hassakeh province yesterday.
Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA
For three days fierce clashes have taken place in Homs resulting in the deaths of at least 23 soldiers, with as many as 130 in total killed or wounded.
The Syrian military bombarded the Jobar and Sultaniya neighborhoods of Homs, as well as Kafru’id.
Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
The tank shelling of the town of Tamani’a has killed 2 civilians and injured 10. Violent clashes took place between regime forces and opposition troops to the south of Ma`arat al-Nu`man, along the Aleppo-Damascus highway.
The Syrian military bombardedKafarsanja and Babluwin, killing 2 children in Kafarsanja.
Intense artillery shelling from Foaa targeted Ram Hamdan, yesterday.
Three regular troops were killed by the opposition yesterday.
Quneitra province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Quneitra+governorate+Google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x151eb4afcd3e069f:0xbcbbd63808a65623,Quneitra+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=Ch77ULCILuyP0QG67YDoDQ&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA
Intense fighting in Khan Arnaba was reported yesterday.
Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Yesterday 8 civilians were killed in the regime’s attack on al-Tabqah.
Russia sent two planes to Beirut and evacuated as many as 150 Russian nationals from Syria today. It was announced that two more Russian planes would arrive later today in Lebanon. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/middleeast/russians-fleeing-syria-cross-into-lebanon.html?_r=0
Some 30,000 Russians are believed to live in Syria. Russia denied that it is planning a large-scale exodus. http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/01/22/syria-crisis-russia-idINDEE90L0D720130122
The United Nations’ Ban-Ki Moon has condemned outside parties for supplying arms to Syria. http://www.dw.de/un-leader-condemns-syria-arms-suppliers/a-16539436
Prince Sa`ud, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia says that a negotiated settlement of Syria’s crisis is now inconceivable given the scale of violence that has been unleashed on the Syrian people. http://www.arabnews.com/prince-saud-says-negotiated-syria-settlement-inconceivable
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.
In the summer and fall of 2012, there were 2 warnings that chemical weapons stockpiles were being moved within the country and one claim (by a U.S. official) that Syria has begun mixing sarin – the components are to be stored separately.
These claims prompted warnings from the United States, France and other nations including China. Russia and Syria denied that Syria would use its chemical arsenal.
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.
It should be noted that Syria also has a miniature neutron-source reactor at Deir al-Hajar near Damascus, built by China since 1991 and which went critical in 1996, and which now barely functions. It cannot produce fissile material and has been used for research and teaching purposes.
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.
Chronology (IISS, Nuclear Programs in the Middle East in the Shadow of Iran, p. 77).
1997 Syria–North Korea nuclear cooperation probably began, according to US April 2008 briefing
26 May 2001 Satellite imagery shows no construction at site near al-Kibar
5 Sep 2002 Satellite imagery shows beginning of construction at site
2002 North Korea allegedly seeks to procure reactor components for Syria
2006 North Korea allegedly transfers cargo to Syria, ‘probably’ for al-Kibar
6 Sep 2007 bombs facility
11 Sep 2007 North Korean official news agency makes first foreign protest of intrusion into Syrian airspace
13 Sep 2007 Unnamed US officials claim Washington had accumulated growing body of evidence that North Korea was cooperating with Syria in developing a nuclear facility
20 Sep 2007 Syrian Ba’ath Party head flies to North Korea; Syria later denies reports that purpose of visit was to coordinate a response
20 Sep 2007 US President Bush makes no comment on Israeli attack but warns North Korea that the transfer of nuclear information is as serious as the export of nuclear materials
3 Oct 2007 North Korea reaffirms commitment not to transfer nuclear technology, materials or know-how in an agreement at the Six-Party Talks
10 Oct 2007 Syria destroys rest of bombed reactor
Jan 2008 Overhead imagery shows new building at site, probably for cover-up purpose
24 Apr 2008 US releases briefing concerning al-Kibar reactor
29 Apr 2008 CIA director says reactor would have produced enough plutonium for 1–2 weapons a year
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. To this should be added the various militias – irregular forces paid by the Assad government, the new National Defense “anti-guerilla” militias, and unknown numbers of Palestinian pro-Assad fighters, Hizbullah operatives, Iranian and Iraqi forces.
Syria’s Golan Heights is occupied by Israel and 1,000 members of a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force patrol a buffer zone.