Syria may descend into chemical chaos

While violent unrest continues in Syria, concerns about the fate of Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons are growing. There are fears it could fall into the wrong hands, causing catastrophic results.

­Syria is one of the states that the US government believes possesses large stocks of chemical agents in militarized form. These weapons are thought to be ready for use in artillery shells and bombs, Foreign Policy magazine reports.

“They are illegitimate weapons in the international community’s eyes and they need to be eliminated as soon as possible. And hopefully the new government which comes would not look to them as symbols of legitimacy, the way Assad has until now,” Leonard Spector, the deputy director of the Centre of Nonproliferation Studies, told RT.

Now the continuing unrest in the country is causing international concerns that these materials could fall into the wrong hands. But Leonard Spector says that weapons arsenals are under control.

“At the moment, with Assad still in control of the country and his forces still intact – although we are seeing some defections-  the items are safe, although they are still in the hands of a very vicious dictator.”

But “if the situation unfolds” and different factions become armed and perhaps take on the regime “the chance for chaos and for the loss of control will grow substantially,” Spector says.

He believes that an international team could probably take control of these sites.

“What we have to imagine is perhaps a change of government that is done peacefully under international pressure, that Assad steps aside when he observes the magnitude of the demonstrations and the pressure that he is now receiving in terms of sanctions and other means…Then we can get an international team from the organizations for the probation of chemical weapons and perhaps actually take control of these sites and eventually eliminate these weapons.”

Syria’s arsenal is thought to be massive, according the magazine’s information. It contains thousands of tonnes of munitions, including chemical agents, which range from the blister gases of World War I to advanced nerve agents.

According to an open source, published by the non-profit organization Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), “all Syria's chemical weapons’ production facilities appear to have been constructed in the same period of the early to mid-1980s.”

Despite such a huge variety of weapons, Syria has never shown its chemical capability.

The magazine writes that in Assad’s hands these weapons “have been an ace-in-the-hole deterrent against Israel's nuclear capability.”