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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Fears of Syrian chemical weapons going to Hezbollah

From Israel HaYom:
The transfer of chemical weapons from Syria to Hezbollah would be tantamount to a declaration of war, a senior defense official said on Tuesday, adding that Israel would not accept such a move and would act to prevent it.

In light of the recent events unfolding in Syria, Israeli officials are concerned the regime may try to transfer its advanced weapons – including non-conventional weapons – to the Lebanese-based terrorist organization Hezbollah.

Syria has transferred advanced weapons to Hezbollah control in recent years, but the weapons have remained on Syrian soil in accordance with Assad's instructions, to avoid their possible destruction by Israel. With the increasing belief that Assad's rule is expected to end in the near future, some analysts have warned he may decide to transfer arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The delivery could include a large number of long-range missiles, advanced anti-aircraft systems that could threaten Israel Air Force flights in the north, and chemical weapons.

Syria is believed to possess the world's largest stockpile of chemical weapons, including some of the deadliest chemical agents known, such as sarin and the nerve agent VX. Their chemical agents have already been integrated in warheads mounted on advanced Scud missiles.

The weapons are currently under the tight supervision of military forces loyal to Assad, but may be transferred to Hezbollah – possibly even at Iran's behest – because Lebanon is currently perceived as more stable than Syria. "We are seeing a paradoxical process unfold, in which Syria is undergoing a process of 'Lebanonization' and vice versa," said the senior Israeli defense official. "Syria, which was an island of stability in the past is now being torn apart by military clashes. Lebanon is now perceived as being the more stable of the two," the official added.

For Israel, the transfer of such weapons – and especially chemical weapons – to Hezbollah would be crossing a red line. The senior official said such a situation would be tantamount to "a declaration of war." Unlike Syria, whose weapons are mainly a deterrent, "Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is much less predictable and cannot be allowed to entertain itself with unconventional weapons," the official said.
Jane's reported in 2003 that Syria had 100 long range ballistic missiles with VX warheads aimed at Israel.

(h/t Yoel)