Syria Uprising Creates Fear of Chemical Weapons Spread
With an uprising in Syria loosening the grip of president Bashar al-Assad, world powers are worried that he could lose control of a secret stockpile of chemical weapons, giving militants access to deadly poison gas.
Syria is one of just eight states - along with its arch foe Israel and nearby Egypt - that have not joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which means the world’s chemical weapons watchdog has no jurisdiction to intervene there.
Western countries believe that Damascus has the world’s largest remaining stockpile of undeclared chemical weapons - including mustard gas and the deadly VX nerve agent - which Assad maintains as a counterbalance to Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal.
The Syrian army is trained to use poison gas and, according to US and Israeli intelligence, can deploy it on long-range missiles. In a sign of growing concern, an Israeli factory was refinanced to ramp up production of gas masks to prepare for a possible attack, an Israeli member of parliament told Reuters.
“The arsenal, based on reports, is quite alarming,” Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said in an interview with Reuters.