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U.S. intel: Syrian bioweapons program has moved beyond R&D phase

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The United States has determined that Syria, despite
civil war, was moving toward biological weapons capability.

The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the regime of Syrian
President Bashar Assad was advancing in its BW program. In an assessment to
Congress, the Office of the National Intelligence Director asserted that
Damascus might have achieved limited BW production.

Syrian President Bashar Assad.  /Reuters/Sana

Syrian President Bashar Assad. /Reuters/Sana

“Based on the duration of Syria’s longstanding biological warfare
program, we judge that some elements of the program may have advanced beyond the research and development stage and may be capable of limited agent production,” the assessment, submitted to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on March 12, said.

The assessment, presented by National Intelligence director James
Clapper appeared to differ from previous documents. For the last decade, the intelligence community did not identify a Syrian BW program that went beyond the research and development stage.

Officials said the Assad regime was working to use missiles and
artillery that could contain both chemical weapons and biological weapons. They said Syria was believed to have been aided by such allies as Iran and North Korea.

“Syria is not known to have successfully weaponized biological agents in
an effective delivery system, but it possesses conventional and chemical
weapon systems that could be modified for biological agent delivery,” the
assessment said.

The assessment also provided details on Syria’s CW program. Clapper said
Syria accumulated a stockpile of missiles, aerial bombs and perhaps
artillery rockets that could deliver CW agents, including sulfur mustard,
sarin and VX.

“This advanced CW program has the potential to inflict mass casualties,
and we assess that an increasingly beleaguered regime, having found its
escalation of violence through conventional means inadequate, might be
prepared to use CW against the Syrian people,” Clapper said.

“In addition,
groups or individuals in Syria could gain access to CW-related materials.
The United States and our allies are monitoring Syria’s chemical weapons
stockpile.”

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