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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs