Syria Update, January 28, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern Studies by Sherifa Zuhur)

29 Jan

Syria Update, January 28, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Today’s deathtoll: 128

Sunday’s deathtoll: More than 140 killed including 62 unarmed civilians.

President Bashar al-Assad claimed that his forces could win the conflict in two weeks if Turkey would stop assisting the opposition, arguing to a group of unidentified visitors (as reported in al-Akhbar) that it had failed to take full control of any of the 14 provinces.

In a meeting in Paris, French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius urged leaders of 50 nations to come through with promised aid for Syria or risk compromising the legitimacy of the opposition. The meeting was attended by 3 Syrian National Coalition vice-presidents.

Refugees: The latest update from OCHR (which does not have the very latest estimates of the displaced)

The Free Syrian Army clashed with the regime today in 119 locations.

Aleppo province:,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

A sniper killed a young man in Bustan al-Qasr today. Shelling and bombardment on Dahr al-Awad and Jusr al-Hajj killed five children on Sunday. Two men were found dead in the Qweik river on Sunday.

The Free Syrian Army targeted the airplanes which were bombing the city of Mengh.
Clashes took place in Safeira today.

Damascus province:,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Bomb squads were able to defuse a roadside bomb set to explode at a market in Bab Srijeh. A car bomb exploded in Tishreen. The opposition targeted a regime headquarters in al-Soumariyya. The Syrian governmental forces tried to raid the neighborhood of al-Qadam and shelled the area killing one today. 4 unidentified bodies were found in al-Qadam today. Activists say they were killed by Syrian governmental forces.

The FSA clashed with the Syrian government’s military at the Damascus International Airport and controlled Harran Awamid market located just next to the airport.

On 1/27/13, Adnan Tawfiq Al-Salama, from al-Bseireh in Deir Ezzor was killed by a sniper in Hajr Al-Aswad.

The Syrian military bombarded Douma and 3 unidentified bodies were found there today, and one of these had been decapitated. The Syrian military killed 10 opposition fighters today in the Damascus governorate.

Dara`a province:,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian military bombarded the neighborhood of Nazihin of Dara`a killing a young man. Violent clashes occurred between regime forces and rebel fighters, at the Baladiya checkpoint in Dara`a al-Balad resulting in casualties . The Syrian military bombarded the town of Hrak and the town of Saida. Clashes took place in Hrak

The Syrian military shot a young man from Busra al-Sham and marks of torture were found on his body.

The Syrian military killed a little boy, Jihad Azwan today in Dara`a.

The Syrian military bombarded the towns of Kharbat Ghazala and Busr al-Hareer and clashes took place in western Busr al-Hareer. A civilian, from the town of Jeeza was killed when when the Syrian military shot his car near the town of Na`ima. The Syrian military also bombarded the town of Shaykh Miskeen.

Deir az-Zur province:,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

At dawn on Monday, the Syrian regular forces repelled an attack by the opposition at a check-point in Deir az-Zur. It was also reported by the opposition that the FSA freed the al-Siyasiya checkpoint, obtained weapons and ammunition and intensified their siege on the al-Siyasiya building [the political security branch] (here showing the al-Siyasiya barrier after it was taken

During the 228th day of Syrian government bombardment of the city of Deir az-Zur, the air force hit the neighborhoods of Hawiqeh, Hamidiyeh, al-Jbeileh, (see artillery fire on al-Jbeileh here

Shaykh Yaseen, ar-Rushdiyeh, and the directorate of Agriculture and Hassan al-Taha street.

The Syrian regime forces shot a university teacher, from the tow in of Buleel in the Sina’a neighbourhood of the city of Deir az-Zur.

Syrian military security tortured to death Abdulkareem Al-Jameel; he had been detained on 15/3/2012 and was martyred

Due to intense shelling, most of the inhabitants of the villages of al-Shihabat and al-Jalamida have fled. There is no electricity or water in the villages along the road to al-Kasra.

Hama province:,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

In Hama, the Free Syrian Army targeted a military convoy heading to attack Karnaz, and the FSA killed more than 50 shabiha.

Hassake province,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

In Hasaka, the Free Syrian Army blew up the civil defense center which has been used as the regime forces’ headquarters. On Sunday, ten fighters from several opposition battalions were killed during clashes with regime forces at the Ghazal roundabout in the city of al-Hassake.

An explosion in Hassake province today:

Homs province:,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

The Syrian military bombarded the old neighborhoods of Homs with its warplanes. Regime forces had bombed the neighborhood of al-Khalidyya at midnight on Sunday into early Monday and clashes took place in that area as well as explosions.

This video was made available yesterday of the Syrian regular forces killing Mohammad Mahmud al-Ismael, originally from Al-Quria in Deir az-Zur when he attempted to defect in Homs on 15-1-2013

Three civilians were killed in Rastan and two men were tortured to death there by regime forces. The Syrian military bombarded al-Houla klling 4 civilians, including 3 children. Governmental forces shot two men in the village of Amiriyya. A man and a woman were killed by the Syrian air forces’ bombardment of the village of Bweida al-Sharqiya.

Regime forces bombarded the village of Abu Hori.

Homs lies almost completely ruined today, despite claims of being the center of resistance to Assad.

Idlib province:,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The FSA targeted the Al-Yaakoubia barrier in idlib. The Syrian military’s bombardment of Ma`arat al-Nu`man killed 2 children today.

Latakia province:,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=ghv_UOaOOMGW0QH88YDYDw&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

The Syrian military bombarded the town of Salma today. In clashes with regime forces today, two opposition troops were killed in the town of Ya’qubiyya.

Quneitra province:,Quneitra+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=Ch77ULCILuyP0QG67YDoDQ&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

Raqqa province:,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA


The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, M.P. Walid Jumblatt in Lebanon called on the Syrian Druze to support the rebellion against Assad and not to fight with the newly formed National Defense Army militias.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that it is ready to aid the Syrian refugees in Jordan, following Jordan’s call for help to aid the increasing numbers of refugees in its country.

Israel moved two batteries of its Iron Dome missile defense system to the north of the country, in case of military action against Syria or Lebanon becomes necessary, according to AFP.

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.

Al-Kibar reactor:
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:

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.

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