News / Middle East

Syrian Scud Missiles Seen as Escalation of War

Syrian men stand inside crater where they said Scud missile landed December 13, 2012Syrian men stand inside crater where they said Scud missile landed December 13, 2012
x
Syrian men stand inside crater where they said Scud missile landed December 13, 2012
Syrian men stand inside crater where they said Scud missile landed December 13, 2012
Syria's recent use of Scud missiles against rebel-held areas has alarmed the West and escalated fears that the Syrian government is inflicting a new stage of terror on its citizens.

“It certainly is by definition an escalation because it’s a potent weapon that hadn’t been used before," said Greg Thielmann, a chemical weapons expert with the Arms Control Association, a private research firm.

“Scuds are not particularly accurate fired in an urban context as apparently these were. It's a way to kill a lot of civilians - but it’s not exactly an accurately targeted weapon against the fighters that are opposing the Syrian government," Thielmann said. "It’s a terror weapon.”
              
The United States and NATO have reported that Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have fired Scud missiles at rebel areas near Aleppo in northern Syria - but Syrian officials have denied that.

Analysts and U.S. officials said this is the first time Syrian government forces have used Scud missiles against insurgents.

Joseph Holliday, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer and now a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, describes the Scuds as short-range ballistic missiles, with a range of up to 500 kilometers.

“They are surface-to-surface missiles that are really an area weapon,” said Holliday, "that is to say that these missiles can’t be used to target a specific house, but they can be aimed at a village or a city.”

In other words, said Holliday, they are not especially accurate.

“And that’s particularly true of these Syrian Scuds. Some of the earlier models - Scud “Bs” - were transferred from the Russians,” said Holliday, “and some of the later models - the “Cs” and “Ds” - are of North Korean provenance, either transferred directly from North Korea or developed in the country with North Korean help.”

Chemical weapons fears

Experts say Scud missiles can be armed with warheads containing chemical weapons.

Gregory Koblenz, an expert on chemical weapons at George Mason University, said Syria “has a stockpile of potentially several hundred tons of different chemical weapons, primarily mustard gas - but also the more lethal nerve agent, sarin. And there is also concern that they might have VX, which is the most lethal nerve gas agent that is available today.”

Scud missiles are not the only way the Syrian forces can deliver chemical agents. They can be placed in artillery shells or in bombs dropped from aircraft.

Experts believe Syria's chemical weapons are produced at four to eight facilities and stored in dozens of places throughout the country.

They say as of now, the chemical weapons arsenal is secure under government control.

Syria warned

Analysts say Syria has no history of using chemical weapons. But they have been used in the Middle East - especially by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran (1980-88) and against the Kurds in northern Iraq in the late 1980s.

“And that unfortunately is a precedent,” said Koblenz, “and potentially a role model for the Syrians who might look at that experience in how Iraq used chemical weapons against the Kurds and think that the use of chemical weapons during the current conflict might have a similar result.”

U.S. President Barack Obama has warned Syria that the use of chemical weapons “would be totally unacceptable” and said “there will be consequences.”

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
December 20, 2012 10:26 PM
If this type of weapon is EVER used in a civillian city or town, by a so called leader of that country, the leader should be hung for the world to see. This is a criminal act, worse than terrorizing (being a terrorist) it is genocide in its purest forms.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs