Disarming Syria brings Israel’s suspected WMD arsenals into focus
One way to reduce the tensions surrounding the Syrian crisis would be for Israel to also give up its alleged stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Both Russia and the US are likely to ask Israel to dismantle its stocks.
Recently declassified CIA documents suggest that Israel secretly built up
its own stockpile of chemical and biological weapons decades ago.
This has added more fuel to the lingering complaint of Arab
states, who accuse Israel of possessing nuclear weapons.
Syria has often spoken of its estimated 1,000-ton chemical
weapons stockpile as a deterrent against another military
conflict with Israel.
“The chemical weapons in Syria are a mere deterrence against
the Israeli nuclear arsenal,” announced Syrian UN Ambassador
Bashar Jaafari, referring to the declassified CIA report on
Israel's chemical weapons program.
“It's a deterrent weapon and now the time has come for the
Syrian government to join the CWC as a gesture to show our
willingness to be against all weapons of mass destruction,”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, generally perceived in the west
as Syria’s main protector, said Tuesday: “It's well known that
Syria has a certain arsenal of chemical weapons and the Syrians
always viewed that as an alternative to Israel's nuclear
Now the Syrian government is suggesting it may not decommission
its chemical weapons stockpiles unless its neighbors do likewise.
“The main danger of WMD is the Israeli nuclear arsenal,”
said Bashar Jaafari, Syria's ambassador to the UN, last Thursday,
stressing that Israel also possesses chemical weapons but
“nobody is speaking about that.”
Such statements put the Syrian chemical weapons crisis into a new
perspective. The US administration has for decades refused to
discuss Israeli arsenals that allegedly contain nuclear warheads.
By bringing the issue to an international discussion, Damascus
might put the Obama administration into an awkward position.
There has already been a reaction from Washington, when the State
Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said that the US will never
accept attempts to compare Syrian regime with “thriving
democracy” of Israel which “doesn't brutally slaughter and
gas its own people,” she said.
Traditionally, Israeli officials never comment on accusations
that the country possesses WMD, pointing out that Israel lives
under constant threats from Middle East countries such as Iran,
Lebanon and Syria.
Israel signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which
came into force in 1997, but has never ratified it. It remains to
be seen whether Tel Aviv will now ratify it, as well the 1972
Biological Weapons Convention.
“Some of these states don't recognize Israel's right to exist
and blatantly call to annihilate it...These threats cannot be
ignored by Israel, in the assessment of possible ratification of
the convention,” the WDSJ reported Israeli government
spokesman Jonathan Peled as saying.
So far, the CWC has been signed and ratified by 189 countries,
with only seven states refusing to join the Convention.
On Thursday, Syria’s UN envoy announced that his country had
technically joined the CWC.
“Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full
member of the [CWC] convention,” Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar
Jaafari said, after submitting Syria’s documents to the UN. He
said that President Bashar Assad had signed a decree approving
Syria’s accession to the convention, with the country’s Foreign
Minister Walid Mouallem also informing the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons of Damascus’s decision to join
But an anonymous source in the UN told Reuters that the
organization is still busy studying the documents.
“I think there are a few more steps they have to take [before
Syria is a signatory] but that's why we're studying the
document,” a UN official told Reuters.
The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration does
not exclude the possibility that Syria’s chemical weapons
stockpiles could be taken to Russia for utilization, though
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday there was
no plan yet as to which country will take on the task.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons after several
hundred people died in a gas attack in a suburb of Damascus on
August 21. Washington accused the Assad government of staging the
attack and threatened to launch missile strikes against military
targets inside the country. The Syrian government flatly denied
all the allegations, blaming the rebel forces backed by the west
and the Gulf states for the chemical attack. Considering the
imminent threat of foreign invasion, Damascus agreed to Moscow’s
proposal to give up chemical weapons altogether.
Saturday’s talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and
Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, resulted in a
preliminary agreement on decommissioning Syria’s chemical weapons
and for a Geneva-2 peace conference to resolve the crisis
While Kerry stressed possible sanctions and punishment to be implemented on the Assad government if it fails its honor its promises, Lavrov said the general aim was to make the Middle East a place “free of WMD.”
Once Syria joins the Chemical Weapons Convention, only Israel, Angola, Burma, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan will remain outside the group.
Ivan Fursov, RT
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.