Mideast Spy Agencies Nervous Syria May Use Bioweapons

Global Security Newswire Staff
Add to Briefcase
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 »
HE LASTED SIX MONTHS
Sean Spicer Resigns
38 minutes ago
THE LATEST

He resigned this morning, "telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director."

Source:
STAFF IS PUSHING BACK
Trump Wants Scaramucci to Helm WH Communications
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump is expected to announce that Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci will be White House communications director, according to two sources familiar with the planning. Trump has left the role open since Mike Dubke resigned in May, and the President has vented frequently to his friends about the performance of his press operation." According to NBC News, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus are resisting the move.

Source:
NEW GALLUP POLL
Trump’s Approval Rating a Record Low at 6-Month Point
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump's second-quarter job approval rating has fallen below what any other past president has gotten during the same time frame. A new Gallup poll found that Trump averaged a 38.8% rating between April 20 and July 19. The average approval rating for that time is 62%. President Obama was at the average during this time period, as was President Nixon. President Clinton is the only president who was below 50% by the second quarter, coming in with a 44% approval rating." There is also a large partisan gap. "Just 8% of Democrats approved of Trump's job performance during the second quarter, but 85% of Republicans did. Approval ratings have become increasingly polarized in recent administrations, but the 77-point gap for Trump is a new record."

Source:
ANNOUNCEMENT IMMINENT
Government to Bar Americans from Visiting N. Korea
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The US government will soon prohibit American citizens from traveling to North Korea, according to two tour groups that cater to Western tourists who want to visit the secretive country. The US will announce the ban within a couple of days, said Simon Cockerell, general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours. The agency was informed of the development by officials of the Swedish government, which represents America's interests in North Korea, he told CNN."

Source:
NEA AND NEH GET $145 MIL EACH
House Appropriations Ignore Trump’s Proposed Arts Cuts
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Federal arts and humanities programs targeted for elimination by the Trump administration would get a lifeline from House appropriators willing to ignore the president’s proposal and keep them running. The $31.5 billion fiscal 2018 Interior-Environment spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday includes $145 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. While that’s still a 3.2 percent cut from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, it is more than $116 million above Trump’s budget request. The National Endowment for the Humanities would receive $145 million in fiscal 2018, which is $103.7 million above the White House budget request."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login