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Syria's Forgotten Biological Weapons

Updated on February 13, 2014

As one bullet was dodged with the seemingly valid treaty to remove the chemical weapons in Syria's possession, the negotiators either deliberately excluded or had forgot about Syria's biological warfare program. Even though the chemical weapon removals have been a long slow process and questionable about if ALL of them are actually removed, Syria's biological research continues and impossible to really track.

Government labs in Syria have worked for decades to develop biological weapons, possibly including a genetically modified smallpox strain from North Korea. These labs are located in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs and they do not need to be large. This deadly strain could kill millions as it spreads from person to person in innocent ways. The only other countries that has this strain is the USA and Russia. Syria has other small stocks of biological weapons that could be deployed using conventional means

But there is worse, as suspected, the al-Qaeda in October 2013, fighters from the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusrah Front have looted biopharmaceutical laboratories during the Syrian war. They would love nothing more than to use them once they learn how to handle and deploy them. Western intelligence sources indicate that al-Qaeda is training operatives in BW and CW in Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Mauritania, and that terrorists from these countries have infiltrated Europe through successful applications for refugee status. Whether these groups will be using BW stolen from Syria or not, is moot. The fact that al-Qaeda clearly is eager to get them and use them is disturbing.

In Syria, BW tracing is very difficult because a disease outbreak in Syria could be indistinguishable from a deliberate BW attack. The civilian population is at the mercy of the elements and as conditions deteriorate, diseases occur affecting many. Biological warfare can be instigated with a small outbreak that spreads from human to human or animal to human quickly. If the strain is mutated, many remedies are useless. Agents with a long incubation time, make detection even harder because until it activates, the carrier seems to be not affected.

Syria does have the capability to deploy BW using crop sprayers instead of using artillery or bombs, which would kill much of the biological organisms upon impact from the heat of the explosion. Making a BW requires the same raw materials to make the weapons that are obtainable on the open market. Syria still has the ability to create BW strains because they are staffed by civilians in civilian facilities, such as, veterinary laboratories, pharmaceutical plants and agricultural and public health institutes.

The perfect BW is one that spreads quickly but has a long incubation period. The modified smallpox strain is one such one. Perhaps, Assad is very hesitant in using it because it could spread to those on his side. Once BW is unleashed, it knows no boundaries. But, al-Qaeda terrorists who are willing to die and take millions with them, is exactly what they want.



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