Syria makes landmark threat against foreign intervention
15:54 - Syria declares ownership of WMD on state television, as well as a willingness to use them against foreign attack.
Today, for the first time, Syria publically declared that it is in possession of chemical weapons and will use them against foreign military intervention, if necessary.
In a televised broadcast, Jihan Makdissi, a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, initially said that Syria will not use chemical weapons against its own citizens, but was later ambiguous about a particular definition of foreign aggression. He made notable reference to a belief that Syria is not fighting an internal enemy in its rebellion; rather, that the uprising is inextricably tied to both foreign activity and external funding.
“No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria” he said. “All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.\"
The Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, is currently in a state of turmoil and, some have speculated, on the brink of total collapse. Since its current internal rebellion began on the 15th March, 2011, it is reported that 19,000 Syrian have died, many in extremely violent clashes with state forces. It is predicted that many more are likely to die in the coming months as the clashes increase.
As a non-signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Syria’s WMD capability has come under intense scrutiny from other countries and international bodies such as the OPCW. Today marks the first time that the country has publicly declared its ownership of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the capability to deploy them. According to the Guardian, “Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas, Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including anti-tank rockets and portable anti-aircraft missiles.”
The news that Syria is in possession of WMD will not shock many in the international CBRN community, but Syria’s threat to use its weapons against foreign intervention will feel particularly pertinent to Israeli officials, who have on more than one occasion expressed a conviction to intervene in Syria’s internal uprising to prevent insurgents from acquiring its weapons and using them offensively against its neighbours.
US intelligence officers said on Friday that they are tracking significant movement around the sites of Syria’s suspected stockpiles. They are consequently escalating their surveillance and efforts to understand and predict Syria’s plans.