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Scientific Studies and Research Center (Chemical)

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  • Type
    Chemical-Research and Development
  • Facility Status

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Agency responsible for all procurement, research, development, and production activities associated with the Syrian BW program; possible BW research facility; missile warhead bomblet production facility.

Initially established in 1971, the overt goals of the CERS are to promote and coordinate scientific activities in the country, particularly those related to education, research, development, consulting, manufacturing, and maintenance. One objective was to work on research and development projects needed for the economic and social development of the country, particularly focusing on the computerization of governmental enterprises and institutions. However, the Center has been identified by Western agencies as the key organization in the development of Syrian WMD programs.

Since the mid-1980s, the Center has been associated with reports of the production of CW agents, primarily Sarin and VX. Additionally, it is the primary research establishment for investigation into new CW agents and new production processes. It may be that there has been some confusion between the Center’s research activities, which might involve the production of small batches of CW agents at a laboratory scale, and a separate industrial-scale CW production facility also located in the Damascus area. Available information does not allow a clear determination on this matter. In September 2017, the Syrian government accused Israel of striking a military facility associated with CERS located near Masyaf.


Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
WMD: Typically refers to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, though there is some debate as to whether chemical weapons qualify as weapons of “mass destruction.”
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Sarin (GB)
Sarin (GB): A nerve agent, sarin causes uncontrollable nerve cell excitation and muscle contraction. Ultimately, sarin victims suffer death by suffocation. As with other nerve agents, sarin can cause death within minutes. Sarin vapor is about ten times less toxic than VX vapor, but 25 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. Discovered while attempting to produce more potent pesticides, sarin is the most toxic of the four G-series nerve agents developed by Germany during World War II. Germany never used sarin during the war. However, Iraq may have used sarin during the Iran-Iraq War, and Aum Shinrikyo is known to have used low-quality sarin during its attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured hundreds.
VX: The most toxic of the V-series nerve agents, VX was developed after the discovery of VE in the United Kingdom. Like other nerve agents, VX causes uncontrollable nerve excitation and muscle excitation. Ultimately, VX victims suffer death by suffocation. VX is an oily, amber-colored, odorless liquid.


[1] E.J. Hogendoorn, “A Chemical Weapons Atlas,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 53 (September/October 1997), www.bullatomsci.org. Note: There is reference to a 1990 DIA report, “Offensive Chemical Warfare Programs in the Middle East,” which had been released in sanitized form to the author under the Freedom of Information Act.
[2] Middle East Defense News (Paris), 28 September 1992, pp. 5-6.
[3] Anthony Cordesman, Syria and Weapons of Mass Destruction, (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2000), p. 7.
[4] Dany Shoham, “Gas, Guile and Germs: Syria’s Ultimate Weapons,” Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2002), www.meforum.org.
[5] Paul Beaver, “Syria to Make Chemical Bomblets for Scud C’s,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, 3 September 1997, p. 3.
[6] “Investigation: Syrian CW programs,” Middle East Defense News (Paris), 28 September 1992, pp. 5-6.
[7] Anthony Cordesman, Syria and Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2000), p. 7.
[8] Dany Shoham, “Gas, Guile and Germs: Syria’s Ultimate Weapons,” Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2002), www.meforum.org.
[9] Louisa Loveluck Loveday Morris September 7, 2017 “Israeli airstrike targets Syrian military site as tensions rise,” Washington Post, 17 September 2017.


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