Last week, we learned that not only does the embattled Assad regime have ties to terrorist groups; it also has chemical weapons. Now The Washington Post reports that we owe Iran and, yes, the EU, a big thanks for the Syrian regime’s chemical stockpiles:
“Iran would provide the construction design and equipment to annually produce tens to hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin, and mustard [gas],” said the cable, written by a U.S. diplomat. “Engineers from Iran’s DIO [Defense Industries Organization] were to visit Syria and survey locations for the plants, and construction was scheduled from the end of 2005-2006.”[…]In 2010, the European Union initiated a $14.6 million technical assistance program intended to improve industrial production in Syria.An E.U. spokesman said the money was part of a program to finance Syria’s development of safety standards for products and laboratories. But the testing equipment, experts said, could potentially have been used in a chemical weapons program.
What’s worse, it now looks as though chemical weapons may not the thing we should be most worried about in Syria. At Foreign Policy, John Reed takes a look at the much-neglected potential of Syrian shoulder-fired missiles (MANPADS) to wreak havoc:
Even the Syrian regime’s aging stockpile of Soviet-made [MANPADS] SA-7s could pose a threat to civilian planes, the Federation of American Scientists’ Matt Schroeder told FP today. He pointed out that SA-7s have been used to shoot down several civilian planes. There was a famous incident in Baghdad in 2003 where an Airbus A300 cargo plane on contract to DHL was hit by an SA-7 and almost crashed.
The rebels are lobbying Washington for their own MANPADS, but even if Americans hold back on sending the equipment, the opposition will almost certainly tear the missiles from the cold, dead fingers of vanquished security forces.The more we learn about Syria, the messier it looks. This is quickly shaping up into a major test for the Obama Administration.