Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Syrian Army Spotted Testing Chemical Arms Firing Units, Magazine Reports
The Syrian military is understood to have late last month test-fired a number of chemical weapon delivery munitions, witnesses told Der Spiegel for a Monday report.
Five or six unfilled munitions designed to carry toxic warfare agents were discharged by airplanes and tanks at Diraiham, which is not far from a large chemical arms laboratory at Safira, the German news magazine reported.
Iranian military personnel thought to be Revolutionary Guard officers were on hand for the checks, according to witness statements. Revolutionary Guard chief Mohammad Ali Jafari on Sunday acknowledged that officers from the elite force were in Syria to offer "intellectual and advisory help" to the Assad government as it battles armed rebels.
The Syrian army has to date refrained from using chemical weapons against opposition forces struggling to throw off the long-ruling regime. The United States, the United Kingdom, and France have said any WMD use in the 18-month conflict would cross a red line that could provoke a Western military response.
Syria is understood to possess a sizable active chemical arsenal comprised of hundreds of tons of blister and nerve agents that can be delivered via air-dropped munitions, artillery shells, rockets and ballistic missiles.
The Safira installation is located east of Aleppo and is formally represented as a "scientific research center." North Korean and Iranian specialists are rumored to manufacture and test mustard blister agent and sarin and tabun nerve agents at the laboratory, Western spy offices say.
Regime security personnel at Safira in the last few months reportedly have been supplanted and strengthened with an additional 100 specially trained members of the army's 4th Tank Division. Significant quantities of diesel fuel and electricity generators have been trucked in to ensure the laboratory would remain operational should it be assaulted by opposition fighters, according to reports.
However, there are no plans by opposition forces to assault the laboratory. "We hope American troops will secure the plant," a Free Syrian Army fighter said. "We don't want the regime to be able to use the weapons, but neither do we want them to fall into the hands of radicals after the downfall (of the regime)."
This article provides an overview of Syria's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.