More on Syria’s Weapons of Mass Destruction

Publication here last week of “Syria’s Arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction Must Be Destroyed,” seems to have grabbed the attention of reporters and officials in the Pentagon and State Department.  Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported on Friday that the State Department is quietly warning Middle East countries about Syria’s WMD.

CNN has a strange story from the Pentagon this weekend claiming that 75,000 U.S. troops would be needed to secure Syria’s chemical and biological weapons. This appears to be yet another “news” story spun to discourage any new U.S. military engagement in the Middle East.

Actually, the most effective method of destroying these doomsday weapons may be from the air by bombing and incinerating the chemicals and viruses.  Napalm or fuel-air explosives, also known as thermobaric bombs, create widespread and super-hot explosions, hot enough to destroy the chemical agents.

The United States government uses two methods to destroy chemical agents — neutralization of the chemicals or incineration in furnaces.  A decade ago the U.S. National Research Council concluded, “Storing chemical weapons poses a greater threat to public safety than destroying them [by incineration]. The NRC recommends completing the destruction process ‘as quickly as possible’ because the most urgent threat is from an accidental or deliberate release from stored chemical weapons.”

True, the bombing of Syria’s unconventional armory is not the same as a controlled incineration, but what’s the choice?

Foreign Policy’s Rogin quotes an unnamed State Department official that the United States has “long called on the Syrian government to destroy its chemicals weapons arsenal and join the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Syria is much too busy massacring its own people to consider destroying its chemical weapons arsenal.  Maybe it’s time for the U.S. and allies to show Bashar Assad how it’s done.

How quickly we forget

The following is an excerpt from a July 2007 Jane’s Defense Weekly article:

Dozens of Syrian military officers and Iranian engineers were killed on July 26 in Halab, Syria, as they were attempting to mount a chemical warhead with mustard gas on a Scud-C missile, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported Monday.

An explosion spread lethal chemical agents, including mustard gas, VX gas and sarin nerve gas, killing 15 Syrian officers and dozens of Iranian engineers who were in the facility. Dozens of people were injured.

About the Author
Lenny Ben-David served as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington. Today he is director of publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a public affairs consultant and publishes He is the author of "American Interests in the Holy Land Revealed in Early Photographs."