Syria Has Expanded Chemical Weapons Supply With Iran’s Help, Documents Show
Syria has expanded its chemical weapons arsenal in recent years with help from Iran and by using front organizations to buy sophisticated equipment it claimed was for civilian programs, according to documents and interviews.
The buildup has taken place despite attempts by the United States and other Western countries to block the sale of precursor chemicals and so-called dual-use technology to Damascus, according to the documents.
As recently as 2010, documents show that the European Union provided $14.6 million in technical assistance and equipment, some intended for chemical plants, in a deal with the Syrian Ministry of Industry. Diplomats and arms experts have identified the ministry as a front for the country’s chemical weapons program.
Recognizing the potential for Syria to divert equipment to the weapons program, the E.U. stipulated that it be allowed to conduct spot checks on how it was used. But the inspections were halted in May 2011 when the organization imposed sanctions on Syria after the crackdown on opposition groups.
Concerns about Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal took on new significance this week when a top Syrian official warned that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would use them “in the event of external aggression.”
U.S. officials have expressed concerns over whether Assad would authorize using the weapons against his own people as a last-ditch effort to remain in power. Similarly, officials have said they worry about the security of the arsenal if Assad’s government falls.