WASHINGTON -- Canada is sending Jordan millions of dollars in equipment and other aid to guard against a possible chemical or biological weapons attack from Syria, the Ottawa government told Global Security Newswire.
Jordan’s military last week reportedly received supplies from a $1.6 million package of protective gear and detection technology.
The aid, beginning with an initial package announced late last year, is specifically intended to help Jordanian armed forces react to incidents involving materials from Syria’s unconventional warfare arsenal, according to Chrystiane Roy of Canada’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development bureau.
The aid is for the “exclusive use” of the Jordanian military, she said, ruling out the possibility that some could make its way to direct participants in the Syrian civil war, now entering its third year.
Canada’s assistance also includes nearly $2 million in WMD response support, and more than $1 million for setting up a regional biological risk-management training center in the city of Irbid.
Supplies were reaching Jordan just as Russia and Western powers verbally dueled over allegations that their respective partners in Syria’s civil war had been victimized by chemical arms attacks. The conflict is believed to have taken more than 90,000 lives, mostly through conventional strikes.
Washington last month linked plans to arm the Syrian resistance to findings that Assad loyalists had carried out attacks using sarin nerve agent. President Bashar Assad’s government is believed to hold hundreds of tons of sarin and mustard agents, and experts have suggested it might also possess biological weapons.
By contrast, Moscow has played up claims of chemical strikes by rebels. A Russian forensic assessment issued on Wednesday ties opponents of Assad to a purported March 19 sarin release near the city of Aleppo, and President Vladimir Putin last month cited an allegation that Iraqi authorities had detained militants seeking to manufacture materials for al-Qaida-linked rebel forces.
The Obama administration has said it is cooperating closely with Jordan in planning possible military steps to secure Syria’s chemical arms. As of June, 200 U.S. specialists were reportedly in the country to offer guidance in responding to potential chemical strikes.
However, Washington has kept quiet on any chemical-biological protection gear that might be going to the Syrian opposition. A U.S. Defense Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Thursday when asked whether the United States is supplying such assistance.
Providing chemical-defense equipment to rebel forces would be a “surefire way” to reduce casualties in this type of WMD conflict, one analyst said in a recent interview.
Such equipment should include “nerve agent antidotes [for] Syrian doctors and hospitals,” as well as “gas masks with very clear instructions about how to use [and] maintain them,” said Amy Smithson, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “If those instructions and assistance can be provided, then lives can be saved."