Sunday, December 23, 2012

Syria Crisis: Threat of WMD War Remains Very Real

ALERT 23 December 12: According the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, both the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China would be unsuccessful in persuading Syrian Ba'athist dictator Bashar al-Assad to relinquish his control of the country in favor of a transitional government.  Lavrov made this real-world fact perfectly clear by saying "Assad is not going anywhere, no matter what anyone says, be it China or Russia." And contrary to an erroneous DEBKAfile report that Russian military forces had taken control of the Syrian WMD arsenal, al-Assad's army retains full control of the weapons, according to Lavrov, within the perimeters of one or two locations in Syria. These locations are known to Russia and the NATO allies. One of these WMD depots appears to be an underground complex just south of al-Safira in the Aleppo region that has come under rebel assault in recent days. If al-Assad decides to use his WMD against rebel troop concentrations it may well occur in the potential open terrain killing fields on the northern, western or southern approaches to al-Safira.

06 December 2012: Once again this report contains critical information as Syria is now literally standing on the red line of what might be the world's first full-scale Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) War.  All open media sources are reporting since last night that Syria has deployed its land, air and rocket forces with Sarin nerve agent. One drop of Sarin is lethal to a human being.

01 October 2012: This is a follow-up report to what I posted originally on 14 May 2010 and was written entirely by the Washington Free Beacon Senior Editor Bill Gertz. This is the most accurate and current information available from open source intelligence.

A Tour of Syria’s Chemical Weapons

Syrian chemical weapons sites revealed as defector adds new details on regime’s plans to use nerve gas
BY: Bill Gertz


Rebels in Syria have disclosed new details on the Damascus regime’s chemical weapons storage sites, as a military defector last week outlined plans by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to use the deadly arms.

U.S. intelligence agencies recently reported on several chemical arms sites in Syria that were revealed in five YouTube videos uploaded to the Internet in July, according to officials familiar with the recordings.

The posting of the videos coincided with the defection in July of Maj. Gen. Adnan Sillu, head of Syria’s chemical arms forces, who told Britain’s Times of London newspaper that Assad will use the arms to stay in power and that his regime has discussed handing over some of the weapons to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

The five rebel videos use Google Earth maps software to show chemical arms storage and production plants—some hidden in underground bunkers—and Scud missiles armed with chemical warheads, according to U.S. officials who have analyzed the videos.

They are likely to be used by U.S. or Israeli military planners in any future attacks designed to eliminate Syria’s chemical arms stockpiles.

Israel’s military said in June that it would be forced to act against Syria to prevent advanced rockets and chemical arms from falling into the hands of terrorists like Hezbollah.

The 10-minute-long videos were judged to be accurate by U.S. officials in describing suspected hidden Syrian chemical facilities.

One video reveals a major chemical weapons facility in the downtown area of the Syrian capital of Damascus located a short distance by underground tunnel from al-Mazzeh military airfield in southwestern Damascus.

The tunnel can accommodate tractor trailer-sized trucks and exits several buildings on the base. An Arabic-speaking narrator on the video shows the path of the tunnel leading to an underground storage area north and east of the airfield.

The narrator said the roof of the bunker includes 45 feet of reinforced concrete designed to withstand a strike from U.S. Tomahawk missiles. The facility is said to contain a variety of chemical weapons, from hand grenades filled with the blistering agent mustard to chemical weapons rockets of differing sizes.

The video shows an aircraft runway near the facility, which is called Zone 86, and housing used by senior Syrian military officers and members of the paramilitary Shabiha.

The video also states that a building near Saraya traffic circle is a residence for foreign technicians from Iran and North Korea.

The Sanid News Network, a pro-rebel news outlet, posted the videos online.

A second video reveals what is believed to be the largest storage facility for Syria’s biological and chemical weapons, located in a residential area north of Damascus between Al-Tal and Aysh Wurur.

Roads are identified in the video that lead to tunnels built into mountains that stretch 1,500 feet inside the mountain and are hardened against attack.

The narrator of this video, identified as Abu Saqr, stated that he has been inside one of the tunnels that had separate storage rooms sealed with heavy metal doors.

Among the chemical agents stored in the bunker are mustard agent and cyanide and nerve agents Sarin, Tabun, and the ultra-lethal VX nerve agent.

The reported biological weapons at the facility include weaponized “bacteria and viruses” that can be transmitted to populations through food, water, and soil.

The video narrator also asserted that Iran is storing enriched uranium in the underground facility.

A third video around eight minutes long purports to show a Syrian chemical weapons factory located near al-Dumayr.

The factory is located east of al-Dumayr on the north side of a highway underneath an earthen berm 30 to 45 feet high. Roads are shown exiting the berms, and camouflaged tanks are nearby.

The plant has a high wall around its perimeter and, according to the video narrator, is operated by Iranians and North Koreans.

An underground storage facility is located nearby the plant.

Another of the rebel videos includes images of Syrian short-range Scud missiles at a base southwest of al-Qutayfah that the narrator asserts are armed with chemical weapons warheads. The missiles are shown loaded on trailers with a nearby underground storage facility for the chemical arms.

The last video uses Google Earth to identify what it claims to be an underground chemical weapons factory near the military airbase at al-Nasiriyah. It was described as an underground chemical weapons production facility and research center.

The Syrian defector, Maj. Gen. Sillu, stated in the interview published Sept. 19 that he took part in leadership discussions about using chemical weapons against civilians.

“We were in a serious discussion about the use of chemical weapons, including how we would use them and in what areas,” Sillu said. “We discussed this as a last resort—such as if the regime lost control of an important area such as Aleppo.”

Sillu said the meeting held at a Syrian chemical arms center five miles south of Damascus prompted him to defect because he opposed the use of the deadly arms against the population.

Sillu, now residing in Turkey, also said the Syrian regime considered handing over chemical weapons to Hezbollah.
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“They wanted to place warheads with the chemical weapons on missiles—to transfer them this way to Hezbollah. It was for use against Israel, of course,” he said.

The Damascus government in the past had opposed supplying chemical arms to Hezbollah over concerns about the fallout from arming the terrorist group, he said.

“Now, if they have nothing to lose why not share these weapons? If a war starts between Hezbollah and Israel it will be only good for Syria,” Sillu said.

Sillu said members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps took part in meetings on chemical weapons.

“They were always coming to visit and to advise. They were always sending us scientists and bringing our scientists to them,” he said. “They were also involved on the political side of how to use the chemical weapons.”

The CIA in the past has said that reports of Syrian development of chemical and biological arms were exaggerated.

In 2003 the agency blocked congressional testimony by then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton that was to express new concerns about Syrian chemical and biological weapons.

Since that time, the Syrian program has continued to grow.

Israel also attacked a nuclear plant in Syria at al-Kibar that was being built with North Korean assistance.



17 comments:

mark3210 said...

Sean,
Do you think Israel is going to strike Iran in the October 11-18 window?
It seems to me like Israel's military window is closing.
I think Netanyahu's UN speech gave a lot of people the impression Israel has more time to act then they actually do.

SeanOsborne said...

Mark,

Anything is possible between right now and when Israel determines the red line set at the UN is in danger of being crossed.

A strike will occur before that line is crossed.

" The red line should be drawn right here…

Before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.

Before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
"

Scipio said...

Sean,
Greatly appreciate your Bible study and commentary. It appears though that Iran gets its' payback with the outer ring and perhaps not in this initial 'inner ring' thrashing by Israel.

SeanOsborne said...

Scipio,

I think Iran is in line for a double dose of judgment.

First in the fulfillment of Jeremiah 49:34-39 and a little later on in Ezekiel 38/39.

You'll find my commentary on both of these prophecies on this blog along with my full concurrence that Iran has no role whatsoever in the Psalm 83 final fulfillment.

SeanOsborne said...

Mark,

Regarding the Times of Israel report and rebel YouTube video of alleged chemical warfare going on in Syria:

The video does not prove anything-- the three individuals highlighted could just as easily be victims of conventional warfare.

Incendiary weapons, such as a white phosphorus artillery shell, could have caused the burnt faces and hands seen in the video.

Syria is a nation which literally swims in phosphorus mining.

Israeli or some other nations Special Forces operating in Syria will have to collect hard evidence of ongoing chemwar and present that evidence for expert analysis in order to make the case against al-Assad's regime.

hartdawg said...

Doesn't that sarin nerve gas have a shelf life once its mixed?

SeanOsborne said...

Yes, Sarin has a "shelf life" once it is mixed into a unitary bomb or warhead.

However, it is far more likely that the sarin warheads are of the binary type and do not mix until the weapon is actually used.

scipio said...

Sean, Debka mentioned the Russian delivery of Iskander missiles to Syria. Si I guess either by these or the sarin gas, Israel will have reason to initiate Isaiah 17.

SeanOsborne said...

Scipio,

Syria's taking possession of Russian-made Iskander missiles would not be considered as a legitimate casus belli for Israel to commence with the destruction of Damascus.

The use against Israel of weapons of mass destruction would.

I do not believe Damascus is destroyed as a preemptive act of war on Israel's part, but rather as an act of retaliation for an act of premeditated WMD war committed against it by whatever regime is in power at that time.

Scipio said...

Yes, I should have said, "by the use of these"...in lieu of just having the weapons themselves. THX Sean for your study of these developments.

SeanOsborne said...

And I should have been clearer by saying that the Iskander-E missiles Syria is reportedly receiving from Russia are not WMD capable missiles.

They are conventionally armed and could tip the war in al-Assad's favor if they are used in the manner in which they have been designed for.

Russia has previously used their M-variant version to great effect in Chechnya and Georgia.

hartdawg said...

Thanks for the clarification

jeri from SA said...

Hi Sean,

From my understanding the US and Israel do not have an answer to this Iskander 9K720 cruise missile system. Is this true or not?

If it has been out since 2006 surely they should have been able to work out counter measures in that time frame? I also see that the Russians have devised an EMP warhead, would that not work against these mach 6-7 monsters?

keep those post flying.
thanks
jeri

SeanOsborne said...

Hi Jeri from South Africa -

First another clarification for everybody; then to answer your questions.

The Iskander M/E 9K720 are short-range tactical missile systems. High-speed tactical ballistic missiles are designed to engage tactical (i.e. battlefield) targets.

The Iskander K variant carries the R-500 cruise missile which has a maximum range of 280km/173mi.

Now to respond to Jeri's question...

All variants of this missile system are truck mounted (BAZ6909 tactical truck) systems and therefore NATO or Israel can "detect, reach out and touch them" either while they are on-the-move on or off road or at the quick halt while preparing to fire.

The "reach out and touch" countermeasures we have range from our highly capable air assets to artillery to Electronic Warfare (EW). The EW aspect is the Iskander's greatest vulnerability because it uses active radar as its guidance system and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) would provide the best point defense response.

I would assign EMP to the subset of EW capabilities both NATO and Israel possess.

The bottom line is that I believe there are very viable answers to the deployment of such a weapon system as the Iskander M/E/K system.

Scipio said...

Now, (Debka) Russia has control of the Syrian chem weapons. Apparently

SeanOsborne said...

Scipio,

The DEBKAfile report is false. Bashar al-Assad's military forces have his WMD under their control.

Jeremy Lobb said...

Hi Sean

Thanks for the answer:-)! Sorry about the delay in coming back but I have been away in the bush:-)!

Hope you had a blessed Christmas and wishing you God's peace and love for 2013.
jeri