A report presented Monday at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism's (ICT) World Summit on Counter-Terrorism said that Syria had a large stockpile of chemical weapons, and was likely to use them if attacked by the U.S. or Western countries. According to the report, Syria has one of the largest stores of VX, a deadly nerve gas, as well as of Sarin, the chemical said to have been used in the attack that killed some 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb last month.
Syria has been stockpiling chemical weapons since the 1980s, the report said, and the army now possesses more than 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, stored in over 50 cities throughout the country. Syria has many methods to deploy those weapons, according to the report, including rockets, artillery shells, aerial bombs, and ballistic missiles.
Syria also manufactures chemical weapons in five locations throughout the country, the report said. Damascus even has a special institute - Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS) – dedicated to developing chemical and biological weapons, the report said. The institute works closely with the Syrian army, and reports directly to President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria's biggest chemical factory is at Al Safira, about 20 kilometers south of Aleppo, the report said, and contains the country's biggest stash of Sarin. This site was established in the 1980s with the help of Russia, and contains some of Syria's biggest military secrets.
There are also large caches in Syrian cities, including Damascus, Aleppo, and Latakia. These are under the direct control of the army, the report said.
However, it added, it is possible that some of these stores have been taken by rebel groups, who have in turn conquered and lost some of the cities where chemical weapons are stored.
As many of the rebel groups are associated with Al Qaeda, it is highly possible that some of the chemical weapons will end up in the hands of terrorist groups. Meanwhile, the report added, it was possible that Assad would hand over some of the weapons stores to his ally Hezbollah for “safekeeping” if he felt they were threatened. Such scenarios could happen “at any time,” the report added.