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Syria has researched, manufactured, and used weapons of mass destruction.

On September 14, 2013, the United States and Russia announced an agreement that would lead to the elimination of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles by mid-2014.[1]


On July 23, 2012 Syria implicitly confirmed it possessed a stockpile of chemical weapons which it says are reserved for national defense against foreign countries.[2] During the Syrian civil war in August 2012, the Syrian military restarted chemical weapons testing at a base on the outskirts of Aleppo.[3][4] Chemical weapons were a major point of discussion between the Syrian government and world leaders, with military intervention being considered by the West as a potential consequence of the use of such weapons.[5]

Chemical weapons

Syria's chemical weapons program began in the 1970s with weapons and training from Egypt and the Soviet Union, with production of chemical weapons in Syria beginning in the mid-1980s. In September 2013 Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (formally acceding on 14 October), and agreed to the destruction of its weapons, to be supervised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as required by the Convention. Syria had been one of a handful of states which had not ratified the Convention, and joined after international condemnation of the August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack, which Western states held the Syrian government responsible for (whilst Syria and Russia held the Syrian rebels of the Syrian civil war responsible). Prior to September 2013 Syria had not publicly admitted to possessing chemical weapons, although Western intelligence services believed it to hold one of the world's largest stockpiles.[6] In September 2013, French intelligence put the Syrian stockpile at 1,000 tonnes, including Yperite, VX and "several hundred tonnes of sarin".[7] In October 2013, the OPCW found a total of 1,300 tons of chemical weapons.[8]

Biological Weapons

Syria is generally considered not to have biological weapons.[2][9] However there are some reports of an active biological weapons research and production program. According to NATO Consultant Dr Jill Dekker, Syria has worked on: anthrax, plague, tularemia, botulism, smallpox, aflatoxin, cholera, ricin and camelpox, and has used Russian help in installing anthrax in missile warheads. She also stated "they view their bio-chemical arsenal as part of a normal weapons program".[10]

Nuclear Program

Location of Syria
Nuclear program start date 1979[11]
First nuclear weapon test None
First fusion weapon test None
Last nuclear test None
Largest yield test None
Total tests None
Peak stockpile None
Current stockpile None
Maximum missile range Scud-D (700km)
NPT signatory Yes

Syria is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a civil nuclear program. On September 6, 2007, Israel unilaterally bombed a site in Syria which it believed had hosted a nuclear reactor under construction. U.S. intelligence officials claimed low confidence that the site was meant for weapons development.[12] Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the site in discussion was just "a military site under construction"[13] and that Syria's goal is a nuclear-free Middle East.[14] Syria allowed the IAEA to visit the site on June 23, 2008, taking environmental samples that revealed the presence of man-made uranium and other materials consistent with a reactor. On May 24, 2011, IAEA Director General Amano released a report which assessed that the destroyed facility was a reactor, and the IAEA Board of Governors voted 17-6 (with 11 abstentions) to report this as non-compliance to the UN Security Council.

Open nuclear programs

Syria is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has repeatedly attempted to purchase small research type nuclear reactors from China, Russia, Argentina, or other countries. Despite these purchases being openly disclosed and IAEA monitored, international pressure has caused all these reactor purchases to be cancelled. Syria has open and IAEA monitored nuclear research programs including a Chinese made non-reactor miniature neutron source.[11]

On November 26, 2008 the IAEA Board of Governors approved technical aid for Syria despite Western allegations that the country had a secret atomic program that could eventually be used to make weapons. China, Russia and developing nations, criticized Western "political interference" that they said undermined the IAEA's programme to foster civilian atomic energy development.[15] The top U.N. nuclear official also strongly rebuked Western powers for trying to deny the request, saying this shouldn't be done without evidence and merely on the existence of an investigation.[16]

Alleged nuclear reactor

Satellite photo of the destroyed site

Intelligence photo of the alleged reactor vessel under construction

Intelligence photo of the alleged reactor head and fuel channels under construction

Bombing of alleged reactor

On September 6, 2007, Israel bombed an officially unidentified site in Syria which it believed had been a nuclear reactor under construction.[17] It was further claimed that the nuclear reactor was not yet operational and no nuclear material had been introduced into it.[18] Top U.S. intelligence officials claimed low confidence that the site was meant for weapons development, noting that there was no reprocessing facility at the site.[12]

Western press reports asserted that the Israeli air strike followed a shipment delivery to Syria by a North Korean freighter, and that North Korea was suspected to be supplying a reactor to Syria for a nuclear weapons program.[19] On October 24, 2007 the Institute for Science and International Security released a report which identified a site in eastern Syria's Deir ez-Zor Governorate province as the suspected reactor. The report speculated about similarities between the Syrian building and North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, but said that it was too early to make a definitive comparison.[20] On October 25, 2007, Western media said the main building and any debris from it following the air strike had been completely dismantled and removed by the Syrians.[21]

After refusing to comment on the reports for six months, the Bush administration briefed Congress and the IAEA on April 24, 2008, saying that the U.S. Government was "convinced" that Syria had been building a "covert nuclear reactor" that was "not intended for peaceful purposes."[22] The briefing included releases of satellite photographs of the bombed site and overhead and ground level intelligence photographs of the site under construction, including the alleged reactor vessel steel shell before concrete was poured and of the alleged reactor head structure.[23]

Reaction to allegations

On June 23, 2008, IAEA inspectors were allowed to visit the Dair Alzour site (also referred to as Al Kibar), and take samples of the debris. On November 19, 2008 an IAEA report stated that "a significant number of natural uranium particles" produced as a result of chemical processing were found at the Al Kibar site;[24] however, the IAEA did not find sufficient evidence to prove Syria is developing nuclear weapons.[25] Some American nuclear experts have speculated about similarities between the alleged Syrian reactor and North Korea's Yongybon reactor[26] but IAEA Director General ElBaradei has pointed out that "there was uranium but it doesn't mean there was a reactor".[27] ElBaradei has shown dissatisfaction with the United States and Israel for only providing the IAEA with photos of the bombed facility in Syria,[28] and has also urged caution against prematurely judging Syria's atomic program by reminding diplomats about false U.S. claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.[29] Russia, China, Iran, and non-aligned countries have also supported giving Syria nuclear guidance despite pressure from the United States.[29]

Joseph Cirincione, an expert on nuclear proliferation and head of the Washington-based Ploughshares Fund, commented "we should learn first from the past and be very cautious about any intelligence from the US about other country's weapons."[30] Syria has denounced "the fabrication and forging of facts" in regards to the incident.[31]

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei criticized the strikes and deplored that information regarding the matter had not been shared with his agency earlier.[12] Syria has declined to let the IAEA visit other military sites the United States recently made allegations about, arguing it fears that too much openness on its part would encourage the U.S. to push for years of relentless international scrutiny.[32] Syria has said it will voluntarily cooperate with the IAEA further if it isn't "at the expense of disclosing our military sites or causing a threat to our national security."[33]

The Non-Aligned Movement has called for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East and called for a comprehensive multilaterally negotiated instrument which prohibits threats of attacks on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.[34] The Gulf Cooperation Council has also appealed for a nuclear weapons free Middle East and recognition of the right of a country to expertise in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.[35] The IAEA has also approved a resolution urging all Middle East nations to renounce atomic bombs.[36]

IAEA non-compliance finding

For nearly three years, Syria refused the IAEA requests for further information on or access to the Dair Alzour site. On May 24, 2011, IAEA Director General Amano released a report concluding that the destroyed building was "very likely" a nuclear reactor, which Syria was required to declare under its NPT safeguards agreement.[37] On June 9, 2011, the IAEA Board of Governors found that this constituted non-compliance, and reported that non-compliance to the UN Security Council.[38] The vote was 17-6, with 11 abstentions.[39]

Delivery systems

In addition to potential aircraft and artillery delivery systems, Syria has several hundred Scud model B, C, and D missiles and SS-21 missiles. Some SS-26 are also operational.[citation needed]

International Partnerships

United States diplomatic cables revealed that two Indian firms aided Syrian chemical and biological weapons makers in trying to obtain Australia Group-controlled equipment.[40][41] One cable stated that India "has a general obligation as a Chemical Weapons Convention State Party to never, under any circumstances, assist anyone in the development of chemical weapons".[41]

In 2012, Iranian and North Korean officials and scientists were brought to bases and testing areas to aid in the development and use of chemical weapons.[3]

See also

  • Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, The Syrian government agency and industrial complex, which according to security analysts and western intelligence agencies, is responsible for developing and manufacturing non-conventional weapons.[42]
  • Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, a 2003 act of the 108th United States Congress which asserts that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States


  1. Smith-Spark, Laura; Cohen, Tom (Sat September 14, 2013). "U.S., Russia agree to framework on Syria chemical weapons". Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 MacFarquhar, Neil (2012-07-23). "Syria Says Chemical Arms Reserved for Attack From Abroad". Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Syria Tested Chemical Weapons Systems, Witnesses Say". Der Spiegel. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  4. "Report: Syria tested chemical weapons delivery systems in August". Haaretz. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  5. "France warns of Syrian chemical weapons attack". 3 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  6. Congressional Research Service, 12 September 2013, Syria's Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress
  7. Willsher, Kim (2 September 2013). "Syria crisis: French intelligence dossier blames Assad for chemical attack". 
  8. Spencer, Richard (29 October 2013). "Syria: inspectors find 1,300 tons of chemical weapons". Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  9. M. Zuhair Diab (Fall 1997). "Syria's Chemical and Biological Weapons: Assessing capabilities and motivations". Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  10. "Syria's Bio-Warfare Threat: an interview with Dr. Jill Dekker". New English Review. Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Syria - Nuclear Weapons Programs at, accessed October 24, 2007.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 IAEA slams U.S. for withholding data on alleged Syrian nuclear reactor
  13. "AFP (04/27/2008): Syria president denies building nuclear reactor". 2008-04-27. Archived from the original on 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  14. Daiji Sadamori, “Assad: Syria Not Seeking to be Nuclear State,” Asahi Shimbun, 27 October 2006
  15. "IAEA seeks compromise over Syrian nuclear aid issue: diplomats". METimes. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  16. "Nuclear Threat Initiative: ElBaradei Lashes Critics of Syrian Nuclear Aid Request". Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  17. 6 September 2007 Air strike at, accessed October 24, 2007.
  18. IAEA: Statement by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei regarding Syria[dead link]
  19. N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility, Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Thursday, September 13, 2007; Page A12
  21. Photos Show Cleansing of Suspect Syrian Site, William J. Broad and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, accessed October 25, 2007.
  22. "Statement by the Press Secretary". Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  23. "Syrian Alleged and North Korean Reactor Photos". Cryptome. Archived from the original on 2008-04-27. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  24. "IAEA: Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic (November 19, 2008)" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  25. "''Xinhua'': IAEA finds insufficient evidence for Syria's nuclear weapons development". 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  26. Warrick, Joby (2008-11-19). "Bombed Syrian Site Appears to Have Been Nuclear Reactor". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  27. "''BBC'': Syria nuclear clues 'not damning'". BBC News. 2008-11-17. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  28. "''Xinhua News'': "IAEA chief: Report on Syrian nuclear plans needs more time"". 2008-09-26. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Star Tribune: UN nuclear agency chief urges caution against Syria by recalling false claims against Iraq[dead link]
  30. Ewen MacAskill in Washington. "''The Guardian'': US claims North Korea helped build Syria reactor plant". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  31. "Syria rejects U.S. allegations on existence of nuclear activities". 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  32. "Diplomats: Syria to Block IAEA From Probing Suspected Nuclear Sites". 2007-08-05.,2933,362782,00.html. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  33. "''BBC'': Syria rebuffs nuclear inspectors". BBC News. 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  34. "XV Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (July 2008): Statement on the Islamic Republic of Iran's Nuclear Issue" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  35. The Closing Statement Of the Twenty-Seventh Session of the Supreme Council of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (December 2006)
  36. Gordinier, Jeff. "IAEA calls for non-nuclear Mideast in heated vote". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  37. GOV/2011/30, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic, Report by the Director General, May 24, 2011.
  38. GOV/2011/41, Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic, Resolution adopted by the Board of Governors on 9 June 2011.
  39. IAEA Refers Syria To Security Council, Voice of America Editorial, June 17, 2011.
  40. "US suspected Indian cos role in Iran N-plan". December 19, 2010. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  41. 41.0 41.1 Rice, Susan (2008-12-30). "Shield S04B-08: Syria arranging to acquire CW equipment from two Indian companiesWikiLeaks cable: 08STATE135048". WikiLeaks. Archived from the original on 2012-12-03. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  42. Special Weapons Agencies. GlobalSecurity.

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