Mideast Spy Agencies Nervous Syria May Use Bioweapons

Global Security Newswire Staff
See more stories about...
Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 5, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

Middle East­ern in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials are con­cerned that Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime could for the first time de­ploy bio­lo­gic­al weapons in re­tali­ation to an ex­pec­ted U.S. mis­sile strike, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

Syr­ia has nev­er form­ally de­clared a bio­lo­gic­al weapons pro­gram, though it came close last sum­mer to ad­mit­ting own­er­ship of one.

Seni­or-rank­ing spy of­fi­cials from two Middle East­ern na­tions an­onym­ously told the Post that they have stud­ied the pos­sib­il­ity of Syr­i­an bio­lo­gic­al at­tacks in re­sponse to West­ern strikes on the Syr­i­an cap­it­al. The United States is seek­ing to build in­ter­na­tion­al sup­port around lim­ited cruise mis­sile at­tacks on the As­sad re­gime as pun­ish­ment for its widely sus­pec­ted Aug. 21 gas at­tack on Syr­i­an ci­vil­ians in the Dam­as­cus sub­urbs.

“We are wor­ried about sar­in, but Syr­ia also has bio­lo­gic­al weapons, and com­pared to those, sar­in is noth­ing,” one of the in­ter­viewed of­fi­cials said. “We know it, and oth­ers in the re­gion know it. The Amer­ic­ans cer­tainly know it.”

De­tails of Syr­ia’s re­search and de­vel­op­ment of bio­lo­gic­al weapons re­main some­what mys­ter­i­ous. A 2008 ana­lys­is by a Wash­ing­ton think tank con­cluded that the mil­it­ary likely had es­tab­lished the abil­ity to pro­duce, at a min­im­um, botulism and an­thrax.

Jill Bel­lamy van Aalst, a biode­fense ad­viser to NATO, said Syr­ia in re­cent years has ac­quired much phar­ma­ceut­ic­al equip­ment that is “dual use.” Though it may be used for val­id health re­search, the tech­no­logy also could be used to pro­duce patho­gens for weapon­iz­ing, the Post cited her as say­ing.

“You don’t stock­pile bio­lo­gic­al weapons any­more, be­cause today it’s all about pro­duc­tion ca­pa­city — and in Syr­ia the pro­duc­tion ca­pa­city is quite sub­stan­tial,” the biode­fense con­sult­ant said.

Syr­ia re­portedly pos­sesses the equip­ment ne­ces­sary for modi­fy­ing patho­gens in­to aer­o­sol or powder form — the bet­ter for dis­pers­al in mil­it­ary at­tacks. There is dis­agree­ment among U.S. of­fi­cials about just how ad­vanced a po­ten­tial Syr­i­an bio­lo­gic­al at­tack would be.

What We're Following See More »
GLASS CEILING STILL HARD TO CRACK
Clinton Says Voters Still Hung Up on Gender
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a New York Magazine profile, Hillary Clinton said she still encounters misogyny at her own events: “‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”

Source:
CHANGE WE CAN’T BELIEVE IN
Trump Vows Not to Change
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
Source:
FILING DEADLINE IS JUNE 24
McConnell Urging Rubio to Run for Reelection
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "One of the things that I’m hoping, I and my colleagues have been trying to convince Senator Marco Rubio to run again in Florida. He had indicated he was not going to, but we’re all hoping that he’ll reconsider, because poll data indicates that he is the one who can win for us. He would not only save a terrific senator for the Senate, but help save the majority. ... Well, I hope so. We’re all lobbying hard for him to run again."

Source:
LEAKER SHOULD STILL STAND TRIAL
Holder: Snowden Performed a Public Service
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said that NSA leaker Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made" by releasing information about government surveillance. Holder, a guest on David Axelrod's "Axe Files" podcast, also said Snowden endangered American interests and should face consequences for his actions. 

Source:
LOOKING FOR A CALIFORNIA COMEBACK
Bernie Hits Game 7
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Bernie Sanders, needing an improbable comeback to take the nomination from Hillary Clinton, showed up to the Warriors' Game 7 in Oakland during a break in California campaigning. "Let's turn this thing around," he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli.

Source:
×