syria conflictIsrael’s top intelligence analyst, Brigadier-General Itai Brun, has claimed that Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people. He made the statements at a security conference in Jerusalem. Brigadier-General Itai Brun, head of the military intelligence research for the Israeli Defence Forces, alleged the highly-toxic nerve agent sarin had been used in attacks on civilians.

“To the best of our professional understanding, the regime used lethal chemical weapons against the militants in a series of incidents over the past months, including the relatively famous incident of March 19,” Brun said. “Shrunken pupils, foaming at the mouth and other signs indicate, in our view, that lethal chemical weapons were used.”

When asked what these weapons were, he said “probably sarin.”

Sarin has been used in massacres across the globe. It was used by Sadaam Hussein against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and, in one famous incident, to massacre Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988. The Japanese apocalyptic cult Aum Shinrikyo has also used the substance. It was released it in Matsumoto in 1994 and used again the following year in a terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway.
Although its use as a weapon was banned by the UN in its Chemical Weapons Convention (1993), Syria (along with Angola, Egypt, North Korea and Somalia) refused to sign. It is widely believed that Syria stockpiled sarin and other chemical warfare substances throughout Bashar Assad’s time as President. Their stockpile of chemical weapons is reputed to be one of the biggest in the world. Further statements by Brig-Gen Itai Brun confirm this: “There’s a huge arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria. Our assessment is that the regime has used and is using chemical weapons.” He based his findings on photographs of victims and other “direct” evidence, but examples of this were not disclosed.

Israel argues that the Syrian President Bashar Assad, who succeeded his father as President in 2000, is testing how the United States and its allies would react to the news it had been using such elements in warfare. Brig-Gen Brun has now argued the time has come to intervene in the conflict, saying Assad has repeatedly crossed the “red line” put in place by President Obama that could trigger foreign involvement. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has also said there is a limit to the tolerance of the United States. On a visit to Israel last month he said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “game-changer”.

A possible motive for Israel to speak out against these attacks is that there are fears regarding who controls this stockpile, lest it fall into the hands of Islamist groups with a strong anti-Israeli prejudices. By joining its voice with other countries allied to the US (Britain and France – who took soil samples and conducted interviews with witnesses and doctors) who believe that chemical weapons have been used, Israel could put more pressure on President Obama to intervene in the conflict, also involving other Western nations. The legacy of Iraq, however, is that the West is now reluctant to intervene in foreign countries to remove weapons of mass destruction without being fully informed of the facts.

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war March 2011, when youths, inspired by the successes and reforms of other Arab nations in the Arab Spring, wrote revolutionary slogans on a school wall in the city of Deraa in the South. They were arrested and allegedly tortured by security forces, prompting national protests against the regime. The regime responded by brutally suppressing the violence, which has raged on ever since.