Syria and its chemical arsenal-A A +A
Saturday, August 31, 2013
IN JULY of 2012, the Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said that they would deploy chemical weapons against any foreign intervention in their civil war. He also gave an assurance that its chemical weapons would never be used against its own people.
Ironically, a year later, hundreds of Syrians lie dead from chemical weapons that the US claims could only be deployed by the Syrian government (although some sources, including the Syrian National Coalition claim that the number of deaths is as high as 1,300). President Bashar Assad’s brother, General Maher Assad, who has just returned to Syria this month after literally losing an arm and a leg after a bombing last year, is responsible for the chemical attacks. The attacks came in gas form, and it was possible that they were deployed by the Syrian 4th Armored Division, the best equipped and best trained unit in the Syrian army, commanded by Maher Assad.
But the Syrian government’s not the only one who has chemical weapons. The Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian opposition, claims that it has all the components to produce chemical weapons, and that it has the know-how to use them. Bassam al-Dada, a political advisor for the Free Syrian Army, stated, “If we ever use them, we will only hit the regime’s bases and centers.” He also stressed that the resistance would only use its chemical weapons if Assad’s regime did first. After the rebels gained control of a “toxic chlorine factory” east of Aleppo, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, warned that the Syrian opposition might try to use chemical weapons against civilians and blame the government.
There is no question that Syria possesses chemical weapons. In July of last year, by their own admission, Syria stated that it had a stockpile of chemical weapons that were reserved for national defense against foreign invaders.
Syria has had a supply of the nerve agent sarin since 2001. An odorless, colorless liquid, sarin attacks the nervous system to kill its victims. Basically, it stops nerves in muscles from switching off, and victims usually die from asphyxiation.
Tabun gas is another chemical weapon believed to be in Syria’s chemical arsenal. Being produced in a factory in Hama, this nerve agent can kill its victim within one or two hours of inhalation. The symptoms of exposure include nervousness/restlessness, miosis (contraction of the pupil), runny nose, excessive salivation, difficulty in breathing, sweating, slow heartbeat, loss of consciousness, convulsions, flaccid paralysis, loss of bladder and bowel control, apnea (breathing stopped) and lung blisters.
But perhaps the most deadly weapon that Syria is believed to possess is VX gas. This is the deadliest chemical agent on earth, so lethal that a mere 10 mg. of the stuff (smaller than a raindrop) on the skin is enough to kill a person. Symptoms include local muscular twitching, sweating, and vomiting. The only two countries that admit to using VX gas are the United States and Russia, who have recently taken to destroying their stockpiles after participating in the Chemical Weapons Convention – an arms agreement that outlaws the use and production of chemical weapons. Syria was never party to that agreement. The chemical facility in Hama is believed to be producing VX, but only the production of sarin has been confirmed so far.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 31, 2013.