Who Was the Syrian Scientist Aziz Asber?

Know a man by the people he worked with and those who mourn him

• Aziz Asber was a critical scientific cog in the “axis of evil” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and North Korea.

• He stood among the ranks of Iranian agents and proxy “resistance fighters” such as Gen. Qasem Soleimani of Iran’s al Quds brigade, Hizbullah’s chief of staff Imad Mughniyeh, Hamas military founder Mahmoud al Mabhouh, and Hamas rocket engineer Fadi al-Batsh.

  • Like Asber, all served as liaisons between the military forces and industries of the aforementioned axis members. Soleimani is the only one still alive.
General Dr. Aziz Asber

On Saturday, August 6, 2018, a car bomb killed Dr. Aziz Asber, a Syrian scientist from the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in Masyaf, near the city of Hama 100 km from Damascus. The assassination raised countless questions, some of which may never be answered. Below are a collection of reports on the Syrian hero.

Who Was Aziz Asber?

Major-General Aziz Asber had two PhDs from France in Atomic Physics and Liquid Rocket Fuel, according to Al-Manar, a Lebanese newspaper and television network affiliated with Hizbullah. He has been called “one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists” and “a national scientific figure.”

The Iranian Mashregh News is considered to be close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Military intelligence expert, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, brought attention to a Mashregh article:

“Dr. Aziz Asber was a key factor in the Resistance Front’s missile capabilities. He was one of the most important brains behind its missile development and was the ‘link binding Syria, Hizbullah, and Iran on the missile issue.’ Asber was a ‘friend and courageous fighter of Imad Mughniyeh and Major General Qasem Soleimani.’ It should be stressed that ‘the responsibility for coordinating the groups of scientists and those responsible for the Resistance Front’s missile capabilities was assigned to him at the end of 2015.’”

Aziz Asber was the director of the Center for Scientific Research. Other’s identify him as “one of the Center’s directors.”

Some attribute to Asber the development of Syria’s devastating and indiscriminate barrel bombs, responsible for large numbers of civilian deaths.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, Asber was “close to Syrian President Bashar Assad and to Iran,” reports the Pakistani The News. Iran is believed to have a presence at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center.

The Syrian Observatory reported, “Asbar also headed Institute 4000 which has several chemical weapons programs. According to Western officials, he was involved in the manufacturing of chemical weapons such as Sarin gas at the center despite Syria agreeing to dismantle its large chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013.”

Asber is believed to have been in charge of managing Hizbullah warehouses and headed “Department 4” at the Center which focuses on the development of all of Syria’s ballistic missile and rocket programs. Reportedly, he was involved the upgrading Syrian medium and long-range missiles such Tishreen and Maysaloun missiles with Iranian experts.

Missile upgrades often involve introducing GPS guidance systems for improved accuracy and overhauling missiles to use solid fuel instead of the more unstable liquid fuel. The New York Times reported Asber was setting up a facility to produce solid fuel.

“Asber was trusted by Hizbullah and had personally overseen the outfitting of several of its warehouses in Syria,” a security source in Lebanon told The Daily Star. “The source also said that the scientist, who was close to Syrian President Bashar Assad, had been the link between experts from Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea since the end of 2015,” the Beirut Daily Star added.

Asber was responsible for the “Inter Coordination Committee on the transport of weapons between Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah,” according to the London-based Asharq Alawsat. At some point, he also supervised the production of non-conventional weapons at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in Masyaf, “including nerve gas.”

The Syrian Scientific Research Center

There have been 85 chemical attacks across Syria since 2013, the vast majority of which were carried out by the regime, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Trump administration sanctioned hundreds of employees of the Syrian Scientific Research Center in April 2017 for what Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said was the use of sarin gas on civilians in an April 4, 2017, attack. “These sweeping sanctions target the scientific support center for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical weapons attack on innocent civilian men, women, and children,” Mnuchin said.

The U.S. Government imposed sanctions against 271 Syrian Scientific Research Center’s employees saying the agency was responsible for “developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them.” Asber was not among the targeted individuals.

“Before the civil war,” the New York Times reported, the center “operated Syria’s main manufacturing and storage sites for chemical weapons, many of which have since been destroyed or abandoned. It employed around 10,000 people developing and producing missiles, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.” The Times added, “Israelis discovered that weapons factories were being set up in facilities of the Scientific Studies and Research Center for the benefit of Mr. Assad’s forces, Hizbullah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in Syria.”


Mourners marching in memory of Asbar. Note the posters of Syrian president Bashir Assad. (Hizbullah’s Al Ahed News)

Complaints were expressed in Syria after the Asber assassination over the failure to provide the senior scientist with an armored car to protect him against attack.

General Asber’s funeral presented him as a national hero.

Full military funeral for Gen. Aziz Asbar (Al Mayadeen News, YouTube)

Research for this article was conducted in cooperation with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

About the Author
Lenny Ben-David served as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington. He is a public affairs consultant, writer, researcher, editor, and historian of early photographs. Ben-David is the author of "American Interests in the Holy Land Revealed in Early Photographs." He worked for AIPAC for 25 years in Washington and Jerusalem.