SYRIA'S SOUP – AT 9:17 A.M. ET: The Washington Post has done a solid piece on Syria's WMD program, particularly its chemical weapons. These weapons are frightening, not only because of what they can do, but because they're so easily transferred to third parties.
Indeed, there is a body of evidence to suggest that Iraqi WMD was transferred to Syria before the Iraq War. Some of the Syrian chemical weapons may be the very weapons we were searching for in Iraq.
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.
Demonstrating once again that sanctions are generally ineffective if the country under sanction is determined to develop a weapons program. A way is found, just as Iran is finding its way toward a nuclear bomb.
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.
The portrait of Syria’s efforts to develop a larger chemical weapons program emerged from E.U. documents, a handful of little-noticed State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and interviews with outside experts.
COMMENT: Why are we not shocked? Many of the "safeguards" the Europeans (in particular) impose on sales of sensitive materials are just covers for clean commercial transactions, often worth substantial sums. There are plenty of commercial firms, especially in Germany, who continue to resist sanctions on Iran.
WMD will spread. It's inevitable. We have made some efforts to curb the proliferation, but they've been far too weak. Now, with nations in financial trouble, there will be enormous pressure to be "flexible" on international sales of very dangerous stuff. It will be a battle between flexibility and sanity, and flexibility is likely to win.
July 30, 2012