The household cleaning agent chlorine, in heavy concentration is purchased by Iran and and fitted with detonators, to provide President Bashar Assad with a vehicle for cheating on his undertaking to surrender Syria’s chemical arsenal under the year-old US-Russian chemical disarmament accord. And Assad is indeed getting away with using chlorine bombs, with crippling effect, especially on children, every few days.
Nonetheless, Sigrid Kaag of the UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Saturday, April 19, that Syria had destroyed approximately 80 percent of its arsenal as agreed under the Kerry-Lavrov accord. At this rate, she said, Syria will have got rid of 100 percent of its chemical arsenal by the April 27 deadline.
The French President Francois Hollande admitted April 20, however, that the Syrian leader had continued to use chemical weapons on the front line, but he denied that definite proof had been established.
On April 7, Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon offered chapter and verse to prove that the Syrian army had perpetrated a chemical attack on civilians in he town of Harasta on March 27, causing scores of serious injuries and lasting damage to children.
Yet although Assad continues to fight civilians with chemical weapons up to the present, neither the Obama administration, nor the Russian Kremlin or the United Nations find his actions reprehensible enough to warrant rebuke or even concern.
Indeed, the UN OPCW expressed satisfaction with the Assad regime’s compliance with the Kerry-Lavrov pact at a time that thousands of Syrians, men, women and children, were being subjected to chemical attack – many crippled for life for lack of medical attention and medication.
On April 11, Syrian planes dropped the new weapon, made of Chinese-manufactured chlorine gas canisters rigged with explosive detonators, on Kafr Zita near Hama. Since then, British and French intelligence sources have reported at least four such attacks against the northern towns of Idlib and Homs and the Harasta and Jobar districts outside Damascus.
Assad is dropping these gas bombs at the rate of one every three days.
debkafile’s intelligence and military sources report that he is amply supplied by Iran, which is buying industrial quantities of chlorine made in Shanghai over the Internet, where the product is advertised by a company in the East Chinese town of Hangzhou. It costs $1,000 per ton. The Chinese firm is willing to meet minimum orders for 50 canisters and up to a maximum of 30,000. Most of its clients are owners of swimming pools and manufactures of common household cleaning agents based on chlorine.
Our sources report that Tehran has so far ordered 10,000 canisters. They are delivered by Iranian military transports to Damascus military airfield, where Iranian technicians repackage the chlorine in containers suitable for dropping by aircraft. They are rigged with detonators for explosions to release the chlorine gas on targets.
The use of chlorine as a weapon of war was banned by the 1925 Chemical Weapons Convention, which was promulgated after its use in World War I by the Germany army to gas hundreds of thousands of allied troops at Ypres.
Assad’s grotesque use of a household cleaning agent to poison Syrian civilians, while earning UN commendation for putatively eliminating his chemical arsenal, sends four hard messages for Israel:
1. Western, Russian and Middle East leaders have known all along that the list of chemical substances which the Kerry-Lavrov accord listed for removal covered at best 70-75 percent of Assad’s chemical arsenal. But to prove the accord was working, they have held silent on his violations.
2. The Obama administration has a broader motive for overlooking the Chinese-Iranian pipeline bringing chlorine bombs to helpless Syrians: If Washington makes a fuss, China and Iran may retaliate with obstacles in the way of progress on May 5, when the six world powers meet with Iran to start drafting a comprehensive nuclear accord.
As we have reported more than once in recent months, the US president will not let anything stand in the way of this accord.
3. From the Israeli perspective, the accords and pacts produced by international diplomacy have proved worth less than the paper they were written on. Iran and Syria are cheating with complete impunity. Israel has no doubt that Iran will also find away round even the most stringent nuclear accord it concludes with the world powers and willy-nilly reach its objective of a nuclear bomb.
Iranian diplomats go around the world asserting that their religion – and a specific fatwa by their supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – prohibits their use of weapons of mass destruction. President Obama has even quoted this. Syria’s civilian victims of Iranian-Syrian chlorine bombs will no doubt take comfort from this assurance.