News / Middle East

Syria Believed to Have Vast Chemical Weapons Arsenal

In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, U.N. investigators take samples from a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, U.N. investigators take samples from a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
VOA News
Syria is believed to have one of the world's largest arsenals of chemical weapons, a vast collection of sarin, mustard gas and VX nerve agents.

The exact extent of the Syrian cache is unknown outside the country, but Western intelligence agencies believe the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been annually manufacturing hundreds of tons of the chemical agents at research and production facilities.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
There are known chemical weapons sites in such western Syria cities as Homs, Hama, Latakia and Al-Safir and near the capital, Damascus, but some of the agents could be hidden throughout the country.

Syria last year confirmed possession of unconventional weapons, but has never given an inventory of its stockpile. Damascus has never signed a global treaty banning the storage of chemical weapons, but is a signatory to a 1925 treaty prohibiting their use.

Chemical agents of choice

Syria's chemical agents are both debilitating and deadly. Sarin can contaminate food and water, while mustard gas inflicts chemical burns and VX is the most toxic of all nerve agents, poisoning through the skin.

After Syria's suspected sarin attack last month on rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government killed more than 1,400 people, U.S. President Barack Obama called for a military strike against Syria to deter future use of the nerve agents.

But now Obama and other Western leaders say they are willing to consider a Russian proposal to put the Syrian chemical weapons under international control for their subsequent destruction, which Syria has agreed to.

US President Barack Obama (Sept. 6, 2013 file photo)US President Barack Obama (Sept. 6, 2013 file photo)
x
US President Barack Obama (Sept. 6, 2013 file photo)
US President Barack Obama (Sept. 6, 2013 file photo)
But the American leader is wary about the ability to find all the Syrian chemical weapons. In an interview Monday, Obama told CBS: "The importance is to make sure that the international community has confidence that these chemical weapons are under control, that they are not being used, that potentially they are removed from Syria and that they are destroyed.''

In another interview on Syria, the president told ABC that the world must maintain its prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.

"I want to make sure that that norm against use of chemical weapons is maintained," he said. "If we can do that without a military strike, that's overwhelmingly my preference."

Potential dangers

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Finding all the Syrian chemical weapons, and then dismantling them, could be difficult. Weapons experts say that if the chemical agents have been loaded into missiles, it could be dangerous to disable them or move them out of the country.

U.N. inspectors were fired upon when they first sought to investigate the suspected chemical weapons attack last month, and international agencies have been hard-pressed to determine whether all chemical weapons have been found, even when countries have disclosed information about their arsenals.

In Libya, one-time leader Moammar Gadhafi cooperated with a NATO disarmament program, but after his 2011 downfall, mustard gas was found on military bases.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid