Monday, September 30, 2013

30-Sep-13: What's actually known about Syria's chemical weapons?

Syrian president, possibly telling the truth or not.
[Image Source]
Might the al-Assad regime in Damascus have lied? From the Wall St Journal:
Syrian Chemical Disclosure Falls Short of U.S. Count |Assad Regime Declares Fewer Sites Than Washington Believes It Has, Officials Say; U.N. Approves Disarmament | By ADAM ENTOUS And JULIAN E. BARNES | Syria has declared fewer chemical-weapons sites than U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies believe it has, U.S. and other Western officials said on Friday, hours before the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution for the destruction of the arsenal.
The Syrian government declared a week ago to international inspectors that it had just over 30 chemical-weapons sites—including some that are mobile—though the U.S. and Israel believe it has 50-plus sites, the U.S. and other Western officials said.
Syria's declaration to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the agency charged with overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, hasn't been made public.
U.S. officials said technical experts and intelligence analysts were comparing the data to U.S. intelligence collected from satellites and other sources.
"We were surprised the declaration was as complete as it was. But we do not believe [they] identified all the sites and that did not surprise us," said a senior U.S. official briefed on Syria's initial declaration.
The OPCW's disarmament schedule, reached early Saturday in The Hague, calls for Syria to submit a more detailed inventory within seven days. It must file a still more comprehensive document within 30 days, including elements such as a specific plan for destroying its chemical arsenal.
The U.S. has asked the Syrians to explain the discrepancy between the sites they disclosed and the number that U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies believe the Syrians have... [A version of this article appeared September 28, 2013, on page A6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Syrian Disclosure Falls Short of U.S. Count.]
Some extracts from the public record:
  • Syria Denies It Has Chemical Weapons  | Associated Press | April 14, 2003 09:06 AM EDT | DAMASCUS, Syria - The Syrian president met with British and Saudi envoys Monday, and the government denied charges by U.S. officials that Syria has weapons of mass destruction and is sheltering Iraqi leaders. 
  • Syria will never use chemical weapons against its own people: Spokesman | PressTV Iran | Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:29PM GMT | Syria has dismissed allegations that it intends to use chemical weapons to end months of unrest, stressing that it will never use weapons of mass destruction against its own people. Without confirming the existence of chemical stockpiles, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said on Monday that if Damascus possessed chemical weapons they would be used in response to any "external aggression" and not during the internal conflict. "Syria will not use any chemical or other unconventional weapons against its civilians, and will only use them in case of external aggression," Makdissi told a media conference in the Syrian capital. 
  • In Shift, Syrian Official Admits Government Has Chemical Arms | New York Times | September 10, 2013 | BEIRUT, Lebanon — Nearly buried in the diplomatic din over Syria, the country’s foreign minister acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that the Syrian government possessed chemical arms, something it had never admitted before, and declared that the country aimed to become a signatory to the international convention banning the weapons.
And this from the past hour:
  • Syrian foreign minister at U.N. General Assembly: 'There is no civil war' | CNN | 10:37 AM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013 | "There is no civil war in Syria, but it is a war against terror that recognizes no values, nor justice, nor equality, and disregards any rights or laws," Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said.

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