Daily Israel Report

Syria´s Weapon of Mass Destruction

Assad threatens: "We are a country which is occupied,” ostensibly referring to the Golan, “and from time to time we are exposed to Israeli aggression. It is natural for us to look for means to defend ourselves.”
First Publish: 1/9/2004, 6:32 AM / Last Update: 1/8/2004, 7:50 PM

Syrian Dictator Bashar Assad has conceded that Syria possesses chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and will refuse to destroy them as long as Israel remains armed, the British Telegraph newspaper reported Tuesday.

"We are a country which is occupied,” said Assad, ostensibly referring to the Golan, “and from time to time we are exposed to Israeli aggression. It is natural for us to look for means to defend ourselves.” Assad downplayed the resources and motivation necessary to obtain the deadly arsenal Syria is purported to possess. "It is not difficult to get most of these weapons anywhere in the world and they can be obtained at any time," he said.

Assad said that Libya’s surprise announcement last month in which Libya announced it would dismantle its chemical and nuclear weapons program a "correct step." The Syrian dictator added a call for the international community to support the proposal that Syria presented to the United Nations last year, which calls for removing all nuclear and chemical weapons from the Middle East. This proposal was largely viewed as an attempt to put pressure on Israel to disarm. "Unless this applies to all countries, we are wasting our time," Assad said.

The latest CIA report on weapons of mass destruction says: "Syria continued to seek CW-related expertise from foreign sources [this year]. Damascus already held a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin but apparently tried to develop more toxic and persistent nerve agents. It is highly probable that Syria also continued to develop an offensive BW [biological weapon] capability."

Meanwhile, Nizar Nayyouf, an exiled Syrian journalist, wrote a letter published by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, saying he knows the three sites where Iraq’s sought after weapons are kept. According to Nayyouf, the weapons are being stored in tunnels dug under the town of al-Baida near the city of Hama in northern Syria. He said the tunnels are part of an underground factory, built by the North Koreans, for producing Syrian Scud missiles. The letter claims Iraqi chemical weapons and long-range missiles are being stored in these tunnels.

Another site is the village of Tel Snan, north of the town of Salamiyah, where there is a big Syrian air force base. The third site, according to Nayyouf, is the city of Shenshar on the Syrian border with Lebanon, south of the city of Homs. According to the report the transfer of Iraqi weapons to Syria was organized by the commanders of Saddam Hussein’s Special Republican Guard.

Nayyouf was a founding member of a human rights organization, the Committee for the Defense of Democratic Freedom and Human Rights (CDF), which had been banned by the Syrian government shortly after its establishment. He was arrested and jailed in 1992 and was released during May 2001.

In an interesting twist, Amr Moussa, who heads the Arab League, declared today (Thursday) that “Syria has no weapons of mass destruction but it and other West Asian countries have the right to acquire defensive measures against Israel's nuclear capabilities.”

In Moussa’s interview with Dubai’s Al Arabiya he said the US was wrong to assume Syria had nuclear weapons without proof. "Syria does not have weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons," he said. "We can't presume Syria has nuclear weapons just like that, that's wrong.' There is just one country with WMDs in West Asia – Israel. And in that case, perhaps in the near future, other countries will try – and it is their right – to protect themselves against such weapons."

Critics say Moussa’s statements are in line with a new post-Iraq strategy taken by Arab dictatorships, claiming, “we don’t actually possess these weapons of mass destruction, but if we did we would be justified unless Israel agrees to disarm.”