Friday, December 07, 2012
Assad's Chemical Weapons
Assad May Take Chemical Weapons with Him in a Retreat
Israeli experts noted that the movement of Syria's chemical weapons could well be defensive.
Assad might be seeking to keep the nerve agents out of the hands of rebels, who are said to be battling near one of his chemical weapons sites, and to ready them for transportation in the event that the president and his clan are forced to flee Damascus.
"I see the developments as a card he's holding against a slaughter at the hands of the Sunnis," said Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the IDC Herzliya.
(Times of Israel)
Why Assad Won't Use His Chemical Weapons -Charles P. Blair
It remains doubtful that Damascus is at the point where the use of chemical weapons against rebels makes tactical or strategic sense.
Designed for use in large-scale, state-to-state warfare, Syria's chemical weapons are particularly unsuited for the urban fights that have characterized the civil war.
Close-quarters combat renders chemical weapons not only ineffective but counterproductive; with sarin or VX, a simple wind shift could turn the deadly agent against the Syrian military.
The greater threat remains terrorist acquisition of chemical weapons if the military loses control over relevant sites and facilities.
The good news is that few terrorist groups would actually be able to use any materials they acquired. Nerve agents require precision and perennial care. Absent the scientific expertise to maintain and replenish various precursors, many of the agents' purity rates will degrade.
Depending on how the particular precursor or agent is stored, its shelf-life could diminish rapidly.
The writer is senior fellow on state and non-state threats at the Federation of American Scientists.