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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs