Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - "Syria today has the most formidable chemical and biological weapons capabilities of any Arab state." - "Syria today has the most formidable chemical and biological weapons capabilities of any Arab state.":

Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 17, 2006

My old friend Billy Beck turned me on to this from the Middle Eastern Quarterly. If true, it represents more than a grave danger to the region (and it probably is true as we've known Syria possessed weapons grade chem weapons for some time). It would represent a huge strategic shift in the area (and even more so if Iran successfully with acquires nuclear weapons). That would end up being very, very dangerous to Israel's survival.

First the story of Syria's missiles:

Ballistic missiles are the backbone of the Syrian posture, so that missiles effectively shape Syrian strategic orientation and operational preparedness as a whole. Missiles, of course, can be equipped with a variety of warheads. But before examining these, just what are the delivery systems at Syria's command?

The Syrian missile command is based in Aleppo. It is known to control three mobile surface-to-surface missile brigades, each of which includes one battalion of (antiquated) FROG-7 SSM, one battalion of SS-21 Scarab SRBM, and one battalion of Scud-B missiles. The missiles in mobile brigades have ranges of 70 to 300 kilometers. Some sixty TEL (Transporter-Elevator-Launcher) vehicles provide mobility.

In addition to mobile brigades, Syria has recently constructed hardened silos and a deep network of tunnels. At least fifteen such underground installations, built with North Korean and Chinese assistance, are being readied for some 1,000 Scud-C missiles, which have a range of 500 kilometers.

An additional four tunnels have been built to house Scud-D missiles, which have the longest range in the Syrian arsenal, 700 kilometers. The Syrians now manufacture these missiles themselves, with North Korean, Chinese, and Iranian help. In May 2000, Syria was reported to have received deliveries from North Korea of a new ballistic missile based on the Scud-D, which has a modern navigational system, making it much more accurate than its predecessor.

Syria's acquisition of Scud-D missiles is significant because they allow Damascus to strike targets throughout Israel from launchers positioned well inside Syrian territory, and thus, less easily detected or attacked by Israel. The tunnels will provide a considerable degree of defense against conventional bombing for both the missile storage and maintenance facilities, and they are linked to a large number of camouflaged launch facilities. All types of Scud missiles are designed to carry, along with conventional warheads, chemical and biological warheads.

Syria has two large underground missile production facilities near Aleppo and Hama, both built with Iranian, North Korean, and Chinese assistance. Iran and Syria jointly produce Scud-C and Scud-D missiles. Syria is believed to be attempting to acquire Chinese medium-range ballistic missile technology in the form of the M-9 and may indeed have already acquired M-11 missile systems.

The FROGs (Free Rocket Over Ground - no guidance) and SCUD-Bs are really that much to be concerned with because of their inaccuracy. But when you start getting into SCUD-C and Ds alarm bells should go off. SCUD Cs can carry nuclear or chemical warheads. SCUD Ds can carry fuel air explosive and it is believed it can be fitted with nuclear and chemical warheads.

The M-9 missile system has a range 600km and capabilities similar to the SCUD C. It also has a modern GPS/inertial guidance system which makes it very accurate. It is that technology which the Syrians seek. The M-11 has the same sort of guidance system with slightly more range than the M-9. Both are road mobile.

Coupled with chem or bio, the threat is formidable. What sort of WMD threat does Syria pose? Well MEQ tells us it is considerable. Not only does it have a sarin (chem) and anthrax (bio)capability, but more worrying, it has weaponized VX, and lots of it:

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