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"Syria today has the most formidable chemical and biological weapons capabilities of any Arab state."
Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 17, 2006

My old friend Billy Beck turned me on to this from the Middle Eastern Quarterly. If true, it represents more than a grave danger to the region (and it probably is true as we've known Syria possessed weapons grade chem weapons for some time). It would represent a huge strategic shift in the area (and even more so if Iran successfully with acquires nuclear weapons). That would end up being very, very dangerous to Israel's survival.

First the story of Syria's missiles:
Ballistic missiles are the backbone of the Syrian posture, so that missiles effectively shape Syrian strategic orientation and operational preparedness as a whole. Missiles, of course, can be equipped with a variety of warheads. But before examining these, just what are the delivery systems at Syria's command?

The Syrian missile command is based in Aleppo. It is known to control three mobile surface-to-surface missile brigades, each of which includes one battalion of (antiquated) FROG-7 SSM, one battalion of SS-21 Scarab SRBM, and one battalion of Scud-B missiles. The missiles in mobile brigades have ranges of 70 to 300 kilometers. Some sixty TEL (Transporter-Elevator-Launcher) vehicles provide mobility.

In addition to mobile brigades, Syria has recently constructed hardened silos and a deep network of tunnels. At least fifteen such underground installations, built with North Korean and Chinese assistance, are being readied for some 1,000 Scud-C missiles, which have a range of 500 kilometers.

An additional four tunnels have been built to house Scud-D missiles, which have the longest range in the Syrian arsenal, 700 kilometers. The Syrians now manufacture these missiles themselves, with North Korean, Chinese, and Iranian help. In May 2000, Syria was reported to have received deliveries from North Korea of a new ballistic missile based on the Scud-D, which has a modern navigational system, making it much more accurate than its predecessor.

Syria's acquisition of Scud-D missiles is significant because they allow Damascus to strike targets throughout Israel from launchers positioned well inside Syrian territory, and thus, less easily detected or attacked by Israel. The tunnels will provide a considerable degree of defense against conventional bombing for both the missile storage and maintenance facilities, and they are linked to a large number of camouflaged launch facilities. All types of Scud missiles are designed to carry, along with conventional warheads, chemical and biological warheads.

Syria has two large underground missile production facilities near Aleppo and Hama, both built with Iranian, North Korean, and Chinese assistance. Iran and Syria jointly produce Scud-C and Scud-D missiles. Syria is believed to be attempting to acquire Chinese medium-range ballistic missile technology in the form of the M-9 and may indeed have already acquired M-11 missile systems.
The FROGs (Free Rocket Over Ground - no guidance) and SCUD-Bs are really that much to be concerned with because of their inaccuracy. But when you start getting into SCUD-C and Ds alarm bells should go off. SCUD Cs can carry nuclear or chemical warheads. SCUD Ds can carry fuel air explosive and it is believed it can be fitted with nuclear and chemical warheads.

The M-9 missile system has a range 600km and capabilities similar to the SCUD C. It also has a modern GPS/inertial guidance system which makes it very accurate. It is that technology which the Syrians seek. The M-11 has the same sort of guidance system with slightly more range than the M-9. Both are road mobile.

Coupled with chem or bio, the threat is formidable. What sort of WMD threat does Syria pose? Well MEQ tells us it is considerable. Not only does it have a sarin (chem) and anthrax (bio)capability, but more worrying, it has weaponized VX, and lots of it:
In contrast to sarin, VX has a high persistence and is much more lethal when encountered through the respiratory system and the skin. Since 1988, there has been a flood of reports confirming Syrian production of VX in plants located near Hama, Homs, and elsewhere. In 1998, U.S. Central Intelligence (CIA) affirmed that Syria had completed the development of more potent, more toxic, and more persistent nerve agents, referring, in fact, to VX.

Almost as soon as Syria had VX, Syria sought to load it in Scud warheads. The head of the Scud-B missile underwent experimental adaptations for carrying the large nozzles and dispersal mechanisms that are needed for chemical warfare agents, especially for spraying a persistent agent such as VX. Syria also began to explore the possibility of installing VX in short-range Soviet missiles already in Syria's possession—the FROG-7 and SS-21.

Syria is believed to have excluded all Westerners from its Scud VX weaponization project. Hence the importance of the first public reference by the Russian foreign intelligence service to Syria's offensive chemical capability, published in 1993. According to the Russians, Syria possesses between 100 and 200 chemical Scud-B warheads. Moreover, Syria has also armed some sixty Scud-C missiles with chemical warheads. And with the assistance of Russian specialists, Syria has developed a cluster warhead capable of delivering chemical or biological bomblets for the Scud-D.

At least one test firing of a Scud-C missile tipped with VX was conducted near Damascus in May 1998. Syria also conducted successful field tests of two indigenously manufactured Scud-D missiles armed with advanced conventional and non-conventional warheads in September 2000. In July 2001, a Scud-B missile carrying a chemical warhead was launched in a test flight from near Aleppo to a point just short of the Israeli border. Reportedly, Syrian sources confirmed the flight, explaining that this was "a message to Israel not to launch any attack on Damascus." Israel has received the message: the head of the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, told a June 2002 meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization council that Syria had adapted sarin and VX to various Scud warheads (as well as to aerial bombs and rockets).
VX can be countered by an atropine injection if given in time. However on an unprotected population in any sort of mass surprise attack the results could be catastrophic. As little as 200 micrograms is enough to kill an average person. And VX kills quickly.

Notice the line above I've put in bold. Syria openly acknowledges its capability for the reason I've mentioned previously ... deterrence. If Israel heeds such warnings, that gives Syria a pretty free hand in the region. Syria's WMD capability also poses a threat like no other that Israel has faced in the past.

The combination of a sophisticated chemical and biological weapons capability with an increasingly accurate means of delivery will lead to more regional destabilzation. With thousands of missiles equipped with chemical rounds plus it's close proximity to Israel, Syria's threat to Israel is enormous. And notice, if you will, who Syria's helpers in developing these capabilities have been - China, North Korea and Iran. Now, imagine, if you will, Iran with ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads. Can you say "Armageddon?"
Could Syria one day find itself under an Iranian nuclear umbrella? If it did—and the road to that point may not be so long—Syria's threshold for first use of CBW could be lowered. For example, in a grab for the Golan, Syria might contemplate a limited chemical exchange with Israel, on the assumption that Israel would not retaliate with a nuclear escalation. Given the futility of all past Syrian attempts to gain military superiority over Israel by means of conventional forces, the CBW option might grow legitimate in Syrian eyes. And if a nuclear Iran gave assurances to Syria, it might diminish Syrian fears and inhibitions in choosing its weapons.
MEQ lays out 4 general scenarios where Syria might deploy its WMDs. "On the brink of defeat" is one which should be pretty self-expanatory, as is "Golan Grab". Remember, in military terms, VX is considered an area denial weapon, and in the latter scenario, could indeed assist in such a grab.

Obviously the two most disturbing scenarios are "Restoring deterrance" and "First Strike".
Restoring deterrence. Syria's chemical weapons are meant to deter strikes against strategic targets deep in Syrian territory, especially highly sensitive targets like government installations, dams, and civilian infrastructure. Were the Syrians to conclude this deterrent were failing, they could use chemical weapons in order to restore it. An example of this scenario was given in Kuwait's Al-Qabas newspaper in a report from its Damascus bureau. There it is suggested that Syria would fire chemical-tipped missiles were Israel to make even limited bombing attacks against Damascus.
Given the threat, this could explain Israel's present reluctance to address Syria in any serious manner militarily right now. And with President Assad seemingly missing in action in Syria at the moment, it could easily be assumed that a more hard-line faction may be in nominal control and have no qualms whatsoever about "restoring deterrance" if provoked by an Israeli attack.

"First Strike", however, is the most terrifying of the 4 scenarios (and there are obviously more scenarios than this, but these 4 are probably the most likely):
First strike. A first strike, launched at a country as small and densely inhabited as Israel, could be crippling. The implementation of chemical weapons against Israel, especially in a first strike, would be designed to impair Israel's fundamental military superiority by striking its retaliatory capabilities, especially airfields and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) command and control installations. Other likely targets would be mobilization centers, equipment warehouses, and transportation intersections. In the early stages of the war, the mission would be to prevent the arrival of reserve forces at the northern front and exert pressure on Israeli forces at the front. Were Syrians to cross the chemical Rubicon, they might also strike at population centers and industrial areas.

According to satellite imagery, the operational alignment of Syria's Scud-C missiles is such that Syria is positioned to launch a surprise chemical attack. The missiles in those photographs were aimed at the nuclear reactor in Dimona and at Israel's airports and large cities. For Syria, a first strike is a first-rate strategic option—depending on its objectives and provided Syria is prepared to absorb the counterblow. Syrian ballistic missiles armed with chemical warheads could neutralize a substantial number of Israel's military installations and tie up its major population and industrial centers around Tel Aviv and Haifa. The effect would be even greater if the missiles were implemented in a first strike, and even more so in a surprise attack.
Imagine the carnage involved in a surprise mass chemical attack on an unsuspecting and thus unprepared population. Then imagine the perpetrator, Syria, retreating under an nuclear umbrella held by Iran. The picture of Iran's single minded pursuit of nukes becomes a little more clear, doesn't it?

Can you imagine a better reason to ensure Iran never gets nuclear weapons in that country?

Neither can Israel.
 
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Whole story: I found it at Rand Simberg’s place.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to point it out to right away.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Very good hat tip. Thanks Billy for providing it. Unfortunately, although very disturbing, it was also very depressing. The image of dominoes falling over one at a time comes to mind.

The nightmare scenario starts like this : Iran nukes Israel, Israel responds, Syria (loyal to Iran) launches Bio/Chem weapons at what’s left of Israel, the US responds by nuking Syria and Iran. Europe and the UN jump in screaming bloody murder. The remaining Arab states declare war against the US and who knows where the NK’s, Chicom’s, and Russians will jump?

As I said, very depressing.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
The nightmare scenario starts like this : Iran nukes Israel, Israel responds, Syria (loyal to Iran) launches Bio/Chem weapons at what’s left of Israel, the US responds by nuking Syria and Iran.
Actually I think it is more likely that Syria would initiate a surprise chem missile attack on Israel along with a conventional munition/missile attack on critical C4 nodes, airfields, ports and military installations. Iran, with whom they’d coordinate the attack, would provide the nuclear umbrella under which they do so (keeping at least Europe at bay (not that I think they’d come to Israel’s rescue).

If properly and overwhelmingly done, Syria’s fairly large army ends up with a relatively easy time of it in Israel and they finally succeed in pushing them into the sea before the US can react properly.

It would be then and there when the US would have to decide whether Israel was worth a nuclear war.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Syria openly acknowledges its capability for the reason I’ve mentioned previously ... deterrence. If Israel heeds such warnings, that gives Syria a pretty free hand in the region. Syria’s WMD capability also poses a threat like no other that Israel has faced in the past.

Doesn’t exactly the same piece of logic apply if you reverse Syria and Israel?

Syria (loyal to Iran)

So you’re stating that a Ba’ath Socialist authoritarian government of a Sunni majority country is "loyal" to a theocratic Shi’a republic?
 
Written By: Phoenician in a time of Romans
URL: http://
Phony (your handle is too long to type)

I suppose if you live with world view that equates a liberal democracy with a Ba’ath Socialist authoritarian then anything is possible.

As to the fiction that Syria and Iran couldn’t work to a common cause. Isn’t it about time that myth hard a stake through its heart?

 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
I suppose if you live with world view that equates a liberal democracy with a Ba’ath Socialist authoritarian then anything is possible.

Since we are talking about them as state actors rather than in terms of domestic politics, sure.

Israel is a state actor which has faced aggression from its neighbours, has behaved aggressively towards its neighbours, has occupied and sought territorial expansion, rather openly has nuclear weapons, and currently has both the capability and the willingness to project power regionally.

Syria is a state actor which has faced aggression from its neighbours, has behaved aggressively towards its neighbours, has not occupied other countries, does not have WMD, and does not have the capability to project power regionally, to any great extent.

Israel maintains nuclear weapons (almost) openly as a deterrent. It uses this power to give itself a pretty free hand in the region, mainly through exercising conventional superiority. Israel’s WMDs present a unique threat to Syria, which isn’t threatened markedly by those of Iran, Russia, India or Pakistan.

Which of those statements do you have a problem with?

As to the fiction that Syria and Iran couldn’t work to a common cause.

Since the actual quote was to the effect that Syria was loyal to Iran, to the point of using WMD in retaliation for an attack on Iran at the cost of annihilation itself, you are being disingeneous.

Would you care to address my actual criticism, or do you intend to flog this strawman of your creation further?
 
Written By: Phoenician in a time of Romans
URL: http://
has not occupied other countries

Mea culpa - The Lebanon, but not (I submit) with territorial expansion in mind.
 
Written By: Phoenician in a time of Romans
URL: http://
Any first use of chemical weapons and or nukes on any country, even Israel, will get world opinion firmly against them ala 9/11 (but x 100)

If Syria surprise attacks Israel with chems, they will be occupied by a UN SC sponsored armed force and their regime leaders tried with war crimes.

Therefore, the leaders of Syria won’t attack Israel unless they are attacked first, or they find themselves in some situation where they think they have nothing to lose...but even Saddam wanted to look good in the papers to some extent.

Now, if they could give some chemical weapons to a radical terror group and escape blame...one reason I think that Iraq maybe did not transfer any WMD to Syria is that they would make perfect "transferable to terror" weapons...after all the finger would point to a guy already on trial. But even then the risk of being caught is a deterrent.



 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
PITR,

The fact that Syria has not SUCCEEDED in occupying Israeli lands in their previous wars does not mean they do not have a desire to do so. (In fact they occupied parts of Israel in 1948 for a brief period.)

Your argument is that since they have never occupied any lands, except for Lebanon, that they don’t have this motive in their mind. That seems a bit rich.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Isnt the fact that we are losing human lives now in wars that exist now a simple reason not to create wars in our heads? I mean cmon Nukes? The first country to launch em will be no more because the world has had enough of that horror.

Lets worry about the real wars going on now shall we?
 
Written By: x2master
URL: http://
X2 ,

I understand what you are saying and I certainly share your frustration but remember we are in theater of war. This is a blog. Individuals here for the most part only know what our CNC and the media tell them.

Most p[eople have too much politics in their heads to think staight anymore.Sometimes it seems as though we are two countries and that the idea of unity is a thing of the past.

Just remember you are there and know what is really happening.There is no need to try and convince anyone of anything anymore. You know as well as I do that the future is with those who do the walking not the talking.

 
Written By: x2master
URL: http://
The first country to launch em will be no more because the world has had enough of that horror
Scant consolation to whichever country was targeted...
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Israel is a state actor which has faced aggression from its neighbours, has behaved aggressively towards its neighbours, has occupied and sought territorial expansion, rather openly has nuclear weapons, and currently has both the capability and the willingness to project power regionally.

Syria is a state actor which has faced aggression from its neighbours, has behaved aggressively towards its neighbours, has not occupied other countries, does not have WMD, and does not have the capability to project power regionally, to any great extent.
If Syria disarmed and became pacifist, Israel would leave Syria alone.

If Israel disarmed and became pacifist, Syria would invade Israel and eliminate as a state and a people.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Your argument is that since they have never occupied any lands, except for Lebanon, that they don’t have this motive in their mind. That seems a bit rich.

Are you unable to read?

"Syria is a state actor which has faced aggression from its neighbours, has behaved aggressively towards its neighbours, has not occupied other countries, does not have WMD, and does not have the capability to project power regionally, to any great extent."

I corrected that by mentioning that they occupied the Lebanon, but I think it’s clear that was an attempt to stabilise the country favourably towards them rather than a land grab.

I have no idea what Syria’s motives are - I suspect their leader is less of a nutter than Hussein or Qaddafi ever were. But the simple fact is that Syria doesn’t have the capability for nor does it have a history of wars of occupation - unlike Israel.

If Syria disarmed and became pacifist, Israel would leave Syria alone.

Uh-huh.

Tell me, if a neighbour of yours had a right wing party that habitually got into government with an official policy that said that much of your land belonged to their country, had a superior army, and had a history of wars of territorial expansion, would you disarm?

 
Written By: Phoenician in a time of Romans
URL: http://
Heh
Shark , good point you make. it would suck to see people attacked with nukes but it is the world we have made for ourselves, all of us. Right now I believe Israel has the nukes in the region , right. lets disarm them. NOT
 
Written By: x2master
URL: http://
Phoenician, I only had the pleasure of living in Israel for three years so I daresay that there is a great deal of Israeli history that I have missed. Remind me again of the wars of territorial expansion that Israel has fought?

1967 was a preemptive strike against extremely hostile regimes which were on a war footing and were preparing to attack Israel (again). Since the Israeli government was getting rather tired of constant bombardment of settlements from, among other places, the Golan Heights, they decided to be pro-active rather than reactive. If you call this a war for territorial expansion, then I’m afraid we must disagree.

Syria does most likely have WMD capability (as shown in the original column we are posting about here). They also have a significant military capability. While Bashar Assad may not be as much of an authoritarian nut as his father was, I suspect that eliminating Israel wouldn’t cause him any sleepless nights either. If Assad believes that he has the advantage over Israel, I firmly believe that he will rally old alliances with Iran, Egypt, and possibly Saudi Arabia and launch everything at Israel. Finally, Syria is a widely known sponsor of terrorism (through direct financing and through its intelligence service). This is their method of power projection against Israel (and the US). It works so well because it is virtually UN proof.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Phoenician in a time of Romans

You know George Custer thought just like you do, he never thought the constantly warring plains tribes would never unite and attack. He thought that up to the very day he was massacred with his troop. A common enemy can create strange allies. History is replete with them. Your analysis is faulty.
 
Written By: McQ2
URL: http://nukethebabywhales.gov
It seems like Korea [and others]are countries where leadership either does not remember or care about the only times nukes have been used. Those weapons ended a world wide war, and demonstrated once [and, hopefully for all time] what the nuke is capable of and the long term effects of their use.
Now various actor states intent on WMD blackmail for their own ends threaten their neighbors with little regard to what will happen after they push the button and send a nuke to.....? (Your choice of a location)
Does Israel have nukes? Undoubtedly. Will they use them? Undoubtedly if attacked with a chem/bio/nuke. [They made it real clear to all in the Gulf War]Will the launch a preemptive NUKE strike? Personally I don’t believe so. If Iran acquires nukes will other states in the area be emboldened by the ’nuclear umbrella’? UNDOUBTEDLY!And is the leadership in Iran any more responsible to their use then say......Korea. I don’t think so.
 
Written By: llewdlac nitram
URL: http://yahoo.com
1967 was a preemptive strike against extremely hostile regimes [...] If you call this a war for territorial expansion, then I’m afraid we must disagree.

Uh-huh.

Syria does most likely have WMD capability (as shown in the original column we are posting about here)

From a source that states this about itself?:

"The Middle East Forum is a think tank whose goal is to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining interests to include fighting radical Islam (rather than terrorism), working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel, urging the Bush administration to better manage its democracy efforts, reducing funds going to the Middle East for energy purchases, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and containing the Iranian threat. The Forum also works to improve Middle East studies in North America."

Oh, please.

Given past history in Iraq, the simple fact is that Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei have considerably more credibility than any US source. See here.

"Although the Israeli and U.S. governments have expressed concerns about Syrian nuclear weapons aspirations, there is little convincing evidence of such an objective. [...] At this time, Syria has neither the infrastructure nor the financial resources to pursue an indigenous nuclear weapons program."

There’s more concern regarding chemical weapons, of course, but their effectiveness against Israel is limited - Syria fires an inaccurate SCUD at an Israeli city, kills a couple of hundred people with VX, and immediately gets used to glowing in the dark due to the Israeli retaliation.

Will the launch a preemptive NUKE strike? Personally I don’t believe so.

Would you be willing to bet your life and the lives of all your family on it? That’s what Syria has to do with Israel, and Israel has to do with all of its Arab neighbours, so it’s hardly surprising that these countries respond to capability rather than perceived intention. Especially the intention perceived by some American right-winger far removed from the situation.
 
Written By: Phoenician in a time of Romans
URL: http://
Phoenician, I most assuredly did bet my life on the benevolence and trend toward non-aggressive wars that Israel has shown. I lived there (voluntarily) for three years. I was just as likely to be the target of counterpunch terrorism by Hamas/Hezbollah,etc. as anyone else on the streets. If I had thought that Israel was a reckless nation of right wing kooks intent on starting wars left and right, why on earth would I have put myself on the frontlines?

ME Forum is a lot more balanced than most sources on Israel-Middle East affairs. Unless, of course, you prefer Al-Arabiya or Al-Jazeera networks?

If Israel responded strictly based on capability, they would have nuked Iran by now. This argument falls flat in the face of actual ongoing events.

And we don’t really know what Syria’s NBC capabilities are. Yeah, maybe they have a half-dozen moldy old FROG or SCUD rockets with some expired nerve gas in them. Then again, maybe they have dozends of modern NBC weapons smuggled in from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and who knows where else. My point is that if Assad believes at some point that he has military (either NBC or conventional) superiority over Israel, he is much more likely to behave aggressively than Olmert and the Israelis would in a similar situation. Since the current situation in the Middle East is one of Israeli military superiority and since they haven’t done any "land grabs" recently, quite the opposite, I fail to see any argument proving that Israel is the reckless aggressor in the region.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Pheonocian:

Actually your link that you provided saying that Syrian land was claimed by ’zionist’ israelis specifically states that no Israeli has ever claimed that land, but Islamist regimes claim that israel wants that land.

Look at your link, the land in yellow is land that Islamist claim Israel wants. Not land that Israel has ever said it wanted.

 
Written By: Todd
URL: http://
from Phoenician’s link:

According to some Islamist rhetoric [citation needed], Greater Israel refers to an extremist Zionist conspiracy to stretch the borders of the state of Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates. The term is not used in this sense in Israeli discourse, and no prominent Zionist or Israeli intellectual or political figure advocates pursuing such borders.
 
Written By: Todd
URL: http://

 
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