Likelihood of Intervention Following 2 Massacres Prompted Assad to Move CW Agents
Unnamed White House and intelligence officials said Friday that Assad forces were moving chemical weapons out of storage, and no one knows why. Some suggest it’s a move to deploy CW agents, while others believe it’s a feint by Assad to quash the rebellion. Other analysts assert that the regime is moving the weapons to keep them from the opposition or to foil U.S. surveillance. Mere transport of chemical weapons exposes them to risk of loss, capture or sabotage that could trigger contaminant release.
AIR BASE (map), home to a MiG-21 squadron. Importantly, deadly orthopoxvirus agents – full-tilt bioterror weapons – are stored there.
STATE DEPARTMENT spokesperson Victoria Nuland warned Syria:
We have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has the responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons.
In Cambodia for an official visit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in:
The international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet [their] obligation
Charles Blair, CBRNe expert at the FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS, warned in March that Syria’s chemical and biological arsenal was a more serious threat than Iran’s nuclear weapons program. LOOK FURTHER.
VITAL NATIONAL SECURITY INTERESTS THREATENED
Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) issued this statement (emphasis likely in the original):
First and foremost it is essential to determine whether this report is accurate, and if Assad is in fact moving chemical weapons, where andwhy they are being moved. We urge the administration to brief Congress on what is known as soon as possible. If Assad istransferring chemical weapons from secure sites to the battlefield, it significantly raises the risks that they will be used or that control over these weapons could be compromised. These are unacceptable risks for the United States and the entire international community,and they would threaten our vital national security interests.
SYRIA’S VAST CW ARSENAL
Syria has a vast chemical weapons arsenal – weaponized and usable – that ranges from agingmustard gas that may be in leaking containers to several hundred tons of blister agents and nerve agents, including VX, thedeadliest nerve agent ever devised. An amber-colored viscous liquid similar to motor oil, VX becomes a gas when heated that doesn’treadily dissipate but lingers. The lethal dose of VX is miniscule: 30 micrograms – the size of Lincoln’s eye on a penny.CW agents can be delivered by mortar and artillery rounds, missiles and artillery rockets, air-dropped munitions and land mines, but theycan also deployed by ordinary methods. VX can be released in the water supply. Sarin, another nerve agent, can be released in canisters.
Syria’s CW arsenal is controlled by the Director-General, CENTRE D’ETUDE ET RECHERCHÉ SCIENTIFIQUE, in Damascus who reports directly to Bashar Al-Assad. Oddly, the center is on sanctions lists but not the director-general by name. (In the U.K.’s sanctions list, HER MAJESTY’S TREASURY lists 3 aliases for the center: CENTRE DE RECHERCE DE KABOUN, CENTRE D’ETUDE ET DES RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE and SCIENTIFIC STUDIES AND RESEARCH CENTER (SSRC).)
WOULD DEPLOYMENT OF A CW AGENT BE DETECTABLE? NOT NECESSARILY.
Only a medical staff trained to read the symptoms – and ask the right questions (e.g., odor) – can detect the use of CW or BW agents, and some agents make diagnosis tricky. VX, for example, is odorless and tasteless. Moreover, people exposed to low doses of VX may exhibit symptoms akin to the common cold (e.g., runny nose, headache). There are additional questions of (a) emergency responder competence and even (b) emergency responder presence. In the Treimseh Massacre (covered in this issue), victims relied on makeshift field hospitals where medical talent and equipment were questionable at best.
In the Douma Massacre earlier this month, (“In Syria: More Massacres, More Torture and Record Body Counts.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-054 3 July 2012.) regime forces attacked and captured the town’s only hospital and either killed or chased away patients, doctors and staff, leaving the entire facility empty. Even if the medical staff in Douma were the world’s most capable in chemical agent detection, they were simply not there to make any diagnosis. Thus, if Assad intends to deploy chemical agents, he will likely first attack medical facilities and zero-out the staff, just like he did in the Douma Massacre.
There is a chemical weapons facility south of Hama City at Tal Qartal (map). Also south of Hama is this “military factory” (map) where CW agents are manufactured. The Assad regime calls it a “Porcelain Factory,” but you don’t need guard posts and an enormous contingent of soldiers (zoom out to see “Army Housing”) to defend a plant that makes cups and saucers. Many of the chemical weapons are reportedly being moved to Homs. If so, that would mean they are heading to Nahiyat Al-Furqlus (map) in the Homs Governorate. Other weapons are stored in Khan Abu Shamat (map) northeast of Damascus, Masyaf (map) in Hama Governorate and near the ancient city of Palmyra (map) in Homs Governorate. (Hat Tip to AbraJohn and “D.S.”)
There are underground facilities at military and air bases in Adra (map) where Scud-D (NATO designation: SS-1-E) tactical ballistic missiles are also stored, and Dumayr Air Base (map). Additional CW facilities are underground in Al-Qastal (map) near the Lebanese border and Al-Nasriyah (map) near Turkey.
Earlier this month, (“Fighting in Syria Nears Chemical Weapons Base.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-055 4 July 2012. ) we mentioned El-Safir (sometimes rendered As-Safirah), a Syrian chemical weapons production plant. El-Safir is located at the RASIN EL ABOUD AIR FORCE BASE 20 miles east of the city of Aleppo, Syria, and about 20 miles south of the Turkish border. The base is collocated with the Dayr Ha Fir civilian airport (map).
HOUSE INTEL PANEL BOSS: WHEN ASSAD COLLAPSES, WE’RE IN “SERIOUS TROUBLE.”
It is likely that complications involving Syria’s chemical arsenal prompted Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) to tell NATIONAL JOURNAL that the administration is not prepared to handle the CW issue when the Assad regime collapses. The Chairman of the HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE said (emphasis added):
I am convinced that the administration needs to be much more aggressive in its contingency planning regarding chemical weapons from an operational standpoint. You have to go into this thinking, “What if [Assad falls] tomorrow? Are we ready?” I can’t talk about operational details, but I don’t believe that we’re ready. If the regime were to fall this week, I think we’d be in serious trouble.
One White House official was candid about the movement of CW agents in Syria:
This could set a precedent of WMD being used under our watch. This is incredibly dangerous to our national security. “Under our watch” also means “incredibly dangerous” to the president’s reelection effort. LOOK FURTHER. Republicans on Capitol Hill believe that political considerations prompted the administration to make decisions that have disrupted special security operations, adversely impacted OpSec, revealed ongoing cyber warfare efforts in Iran and disclosed sensitive national security information.
(“Senate Republicans Demand Outside Special Counsel “Immediately.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-052 27 June 2012. When details of the AQAP operation were leaked for political gain, thus endangering the confidential informant, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), House intel panel chairman, said “opportunities were lost” when the Saudis yanked the CI about 20 April. According to sources, this leak involved Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). We assessed that we were not in Yemen to rummage around for a pair of explosive underwear. Excerpt: “One of Chairman Rogers’ lost opportunities was likely the elimination of master bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan Al-Asiri if not the entire staff and facilities of AQAP’s EXPLOSIVES DEPARTMENT.” “’Opportunities were Lost’ to Leaks; DNI Clapper Works to Clean House. INSIDER Shipmate/Analyst: ‘With This Level of OpSec, They Could Grate Cheese.’” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-037 10 May 2012.)
247 KILLED IN A SINGLE SYRIAN VILLAGE
On Thursday, forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad slaughtered 247 people in a single village – the worst massacre in 16 murderous months in Syria. And across that nation, Thursday’s death toll was a record 287. Tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships shelled the rural Sunni village of Treimseh (“TRAYM-say”) in Hama Province for 5 hours
Thursday, beginning at 0500 local. Shelling then became sporadic as Shabbiha (thugs) from nearby Alawite villages went door to door to carry out summary executions. This map shows that the Army and Shabbiha had completely surrounded the town before attacking.
Tanks and troops sealed off streets, and snipers shot and killed anything that moved. That included injured people who tried to make it to makeshift field hospitals, pushing the death toll higher. During a lull in artillery fire, some villagers fled Treimseh for nearby fields and farmlands, but Assad loyalists pursued them, killing many.
Many of the victims were butchered to death with knives and axes, and at least 30 of them were set ablaze and burned alive. One man was stabbed and skinned alive. 50 of the victims were internally displaced persons who had sought refuge in Treimseh. A son bade farewell to his slain father. Some 150 corpses were taken to the village mosque to be prepared for burial.
In our view, the Assad regime decision to move chemical weapons was triggered by the Douma Massacre earlier this month and last week’s Treimseh Massacre that claimed a record 247 lives in a single village. Assad likely believed that the staggering death toll in those slaughters was a bridge-too-far, and he feared intervention. Incompetent to the last degree, U.N. Envoy Kofi Annan’s mid-April meaningless “ceasefire” resulted in a hike in the kill rate, but Assad has kept murders to about a hundred daily. Fearing that Douma and Treimseh might trigger intervention and aware of the exceptional surveillance capabilities of the U.S. and NATO, Assad treated our satellites to the scene of chemical weapons being moved about. Assad’s intent: intimidate Washington and the West into further inaction.
Washington has no appetite for intervention, and the opposition rightfully has no desire for a negotiated political solution and instead demands the ouster and punishment of Assad and his cronies for mass murder. It is with the deepest regret that we assess that the regime’s crimes – crimes against humanity – will continue unabated.
*SNAP!* SECURITY IN SECONDS
IRAN-LINKED TERROR SUSPECT DETAINED IN CYPRUS. A court in Cyprus has ordered the continued detention of a Swedish passport holder of Lebanese descent. Intelligence provided the Cypriots by “foreign agencies” led to his arrest in the coastal city of Limassol. Documents and photos in his possession showed that he was tracking movements of Israelis there. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for having a hand in the plot.
Assessment: Mr. Netanyahu is 100% accurate, and this development comes as no surprise whatsoever. This is still another skirmish in the proxy war waged by Iran – specifically HEZBOLLAH and SEPAH PASDARAN (ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS). SEPAH and their Lebanese lapdog have plotted and carried out attacks against U.S. and Israeli interests in Thailand, India and other locales;
(“Hooker-Translators, HEZBOLLAH Denials & ‘Tradecraft’ in Thailand.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-012 18 February 2012. See also: “Iran & Syria Mount Attacks on Proxy Battlefields,” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-010 13 February 2012; “Flash: Ehud Barak Assassination Plot Thwarted in Singapore,” FORWARDLEANING INSIDER 12-001 16 February 2012; “Iran: Preemptive Strikes, Oil Prices & The Terrorist Threat of Abject Incompetence,” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-013 21 February 2012.) threatened what we’ve assessed are “deterrence strikes” including assassinations of key, proIsrael U.S. lawmakers in our homeland; (“New Danger: A ‘Tri-Border Area’ Anchored in Brownsville, Matamoros & the Rio Grande.
The Threat of Iranian ‘Deterrence Strikes’ – Including Assassination Attempts – on the U.S. Homeland.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-031 12 April 2012.) recruited spies and operatives in Canada; (“Iran Recruiting Canadians; Northern Terror Front Feared.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-059 12 July 2012.) and most recently targeted Israeli targets in Kenya. (“Threat of Terrorist Attack in Kenya. Kenya’s Bad Gamble with a Clan to Defeat SHABAAB by August.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-046 12 June 2012. “IranIsrael Cold War Spills Into East Africa.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-056 6 July 2012. “Iran Shipped Considerable Quantity of Explosives to Kenya.” FORWARDLEANING INSIDER 12-058 11 July 2012. “Terror Threat Compounds in Kenya.” FORWARD-LEANING INSIDER 12-059 12 July 2012.) Watch for these threats to intensify and multiply in the days and weeks ahead
LAWMAKERS CALL ON FBI TO RELEASE FORT HOOD INVESTIGATION.
Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have called on the FBI to release an unclassified version of the Fort Hood massacre inquiry. Mr. Wolf worries that the administration is “trying to stonewall” release of the investigation, “so it doesn’t come out until after the elections.” LOOK FURTHER.
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