Assad’s biological weapons absent from US-Russia deal

Syrian regime has two bases producing anthrax and other devastating agents, Israel’s Channel 10 reports

A photomicrograph of Bacillus anthracis bacteria, the cause of the anthrax disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services/Wikipedia Commons)
A photomicrograph of Bacillus anthracis bacteria, the cause of the anthrax disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services/Wikipedia Commons)

Syrian President Bashar Assad has two biological weapons bases, developing anthrax and other devastating biological agents, and yet the US-Russia deal aimed at stripping his regime of chemical weapons makes no provisions for his biological weapons capability, Israeli TV reported Sunday night.

There is “not a word” about biological weapons in the agreement that US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday, Channel 10 news said.

Assad has two biological weapons bases, one of them subterranean and a second in a coastal location, producing anthrax and other agents, the report said

In an unclassified report in April, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assessed that Syria could be capable of producing limited biological weapons.

“Based on the duration of Syria’s longstanding biological warfare (BW) program, we judge that some elements of the program may have advanced beyond the research and development stage and may be capable of limited agent production,” Clapper wrote. “Syria is not known to have successfully weaponized biological agents in an effective delivery system, but it possesses conventional and chemical weapon systems that could be modified for biological agent delivery.”

A 2008 report on Syrian WMDs, by Anthony Cordesman of the US Center for Strategic and International Studies, went further, citing Israeli sources. According to Israel, Cordesman wrote, “Syria weaponized botulinum and ricin toxins in the early 1990s, and probably anthrax.”

He noted “reports of one underground facility and one near the coast,” cited a “possible production capability for anthrax and botulism, and possibly other agents,” and mentioned “limited indications [Syria] may be developing or testing biological variations on ZAB-incendiary bombs and PTAB-500 cluster bombs and Scud warheads.”

The Cordesman report noted that “using advanced agents – such as the most lethal forms of anthrax – can have the effectiveness of small theater nuclear weapons. It is difficult to design adequate missile warheads to disseminate such agents, but this is not beyond Syrian capabilities – particularly since much of the technology needed to make effective cluster munitions and bomblets for VX gas can be adapted to the delivery of biological weapons.

“The design of biological bombs and missile warheads with the lethality of small nuclear weapons may now be within Syrian capabilities, as is the design of UAV, helicopter, cruise missile, or aircraft-borne systems to deliver the agent slowly over a long line of flight and taking maximum advantage of wind and weather conditions,” he wrote.

On Friday, Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) wrote to President Barack Obama to warn that “omitting Assad’s bioweapons from any agreement would represent a gaping hole in the plan.” Such weaponry, in the hands of Assad or his allies, wrote Cornyn, “represent a direct security threat” to the US and its allies. If Hezbollah and other terror groups got hold of this materiel, he warned, “this would be a direct threat to the United States and our allies, particularly Israel.”

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