If in its final hours Syria’s crumbling government unleashes a chemical barrage — and some analysts certainly think that’s possible — the regime will probably rely on an arsenal of gas- or nerve agent-tipped ballistic missiles purchased from Iran and North Korea.
But precisely how many and what mix of missiles President Bashar Al Assad controls, and therefore how deadly a chemical strike might be, both remain unclear. Equally unclear is how far the world should go to defend against such a strike.
Chances are, Syria possesses at least three types of ballistic missile that can be fitted with chemical warheads, according to Dr. Jeffrey Lewis from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. These include Scuds and SS-21s acquired from North Korea and, less clearly, Fateh 110s transferred from Iran.
The Fateh 110s and SS-21s, both around 20 feet long, can reach just 50 and 120 miles, respectively. The Scuds, at 35 feet long, have a longer range: up to 400 miles. All the missiles are mobile — that is, they’re carried and launched by wheeled or tracked vehicles. The Scud’s so-called Transporter Erector Launcher is a heavy-duty offroad truck the size of a tractor trailer.