Syrian Chemical Weapons and Al-Qaida

July 27, 2012 12:15 pm 0 comments

Chemical weapons collected after Libya’s National Transitional Council declared full liberation of the country. Similar weapons are believed to be inside Syria. Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti.

During a nighttime raid in Amman on April 20, 2004, Jordanian security forces foiled a plot by al-Qaida to attack the headquarters of Jordanian intelligence, the Jordanian prime minister’s office and the U.S. Embassy with chemical weapons. Tons of chemical agents were seized that apparently had come from Syria. Jordanian officials estimated that the chemical attack could have killed 20,000 people.

One of the terrorists who was captured confessed on Jordanian television that he worked for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who had become the commander of al-Qaida in Iraq. Zarqawi was eliminated by the U.S. but his organization survived. Today it is dispatching its operatives to Syria to fight the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad.

There was an emerging chemical threat to Europe as well. In 2002, the French counterintelligence agency, DST, broke up an Algerian cell connected to the Zarqawi network that was intending to attack the subway system of Paris with chemical weapons.

The revelations about al-Qaida planning to use chemical weapons was not new. U.S. intelligence agencies had in their possession al-Qaida training manuals, which contained information on the production and deployment of chemical weapons. The al-Qaida network appeared to be prepared to use chemical weapons in the terrorist attacks it was planning in order to cause far greater numbers of casualties in comparison with a conventional terrorist attack.

Given this recent history, the concern in the West that Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons will end up in the hands of terrorist organizations is valid. There are two scenarios in which this transfer of chemical weapons could occur. According to one scenario, terrorist organizations simply overpower the Syrian units protecting the chemical weapons stockpiles. There has been a similar concern in the West that this could occur with the nuclear weapons of Pakistan with the weakening of its regime and the penetration of the Pakistani Army by jihadist elements.

There is also another scenario that the Syrians actually give their chemical weapons to an organization like Hezbollah, rather than al-Qaida, just as the regime collapses. Defeated regimes have been known to give away their strategic “crown jewels” during previous wars, sometimes temporarily for safekeeping and other times with no intention of getting the weapons back. In 1991, Saddam Hussein gave away the most advanced aircraft in the Iraqi Air Force to Iran, his former adversary, rather than letting them be destroyed on the ground by the U.S. Air Force.

Then in 2003, just before the outbreak of the Iraq War, the U.S. had satellite intelligence showing the heavy flow of truck traffic from Iraq into Syria. In late October 2003, James Clapper, who today serves as President Obama’s chief intelligence advisor, told The New York Times when he headed an American agency that was responsible for interpreting satellite imagery, that the truck convoys contained Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraq Study Group that reported to the head of the CIA and was given the task of finding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, after the U.S. invasion, did not have sufficient information about the movement of Iraqi chemical weapons to Syria, though it concluded that the reports on this subject “were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation.” In 2005, just after he left his position as IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon, told The New York Sun that Saddam Hussein had transferred chemical agents in Iraq to Syria, adding in a tone of criticism that no one went to Syria to find them.

This time it is less likely that the West will allow Syria’s substantial chemical weapons stockpile to disappear, like in the Iraqi case. In early March, The Wall Street Journal reported that the armies of the U.S. and Jordan were developing joint plans to secure Syria’s chemical arsenal. It was noteworthy that Jordan’s King Abdullah specifically warned in a CNN interview on July 18 that Syrian chemical weapons might fall ” in the wrong hands,” adding that al-Qaida had a presence in parts of Syria already. He undoubtedly recalled Zarqawi’s 2004 operation in Amman. Clearly, if no action is taken to secure Syria’s chemical weapons, then it should come as no surprise if al-Qaida escalates with unconventional attacks in the heart of London, Madrid, Paris, or Berlin.

What also emerges from this review of the spread of chemical weapons to terrorist organizations in the Middle East is the critical importance of not having porous borders. It is not entirely clear where Zarqawi obtained tons of chemical weapons from in 2004, but what is known is that the borders between Iraq, Syria, and Jordan were completely open. Anyone with a truck full of chemical or biological weapons — or a nuclear bomb in the future — could make his way across the desert and penetrate his neighbor’s territory.

The Saudis wisely just sealed their long border with Iraq. Israel’s heavy investment in new security fences along the border with Egyptian Sinai is also warranted in this new strategic environment. Equally justified is the stress given by Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the Jordan Valley into Israel’s line of defense in the east and not leaving the heart of Israel open to this new kind of non-conventional threat should it materialize here as well.

This post first appeared in Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Education Haredim and Bedouin: A Tale of Two Communities Transformed by Vocational Education

    Haredim and Bedouin: A Tale of Two Communities Transformed by Vocational Education

    JNS.org – Low enlistment rates in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). High rates of poverty. Communal resistance to traditional schooling. Difficulty finding employment or a lack of motivation to be employed. These conditions are shared by two sectors of the Israeli population that the casual observer likely wouldn’t group together: haredi Jews and Bedouin. Through its operation of schools for each population, however, the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network seeks to give haredim and Bedouin a brighter future in the Jewish [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.