Uprising in Syria raises fear of chemical weapons control

As the uprising in Syria continues to wrest control of the country away from Bashar al-Assad, the nations of the world are concerned about who will gain control of a secret stockpile of chemical weapons.

Syria is one of eight states that has not joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is believed that Damascus has the largest remaining stockpile of undeclared chemical weapons worldwide. The cache may include VX nerve agent and mustard gas, Reuters reports.

“The arsenal, based on reports, is quite alarming,” Ahmet Üzümcü, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said, according to Reuters. “If those reports are correct it would really take a lot of resources and efforts to destroy, to eliminate, those stocks.”

An OPCW official referred to Syria as the 800 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to the anti-proliferation organization. Üzümcü said that he could deploy a team within 12 hours for an inspection if the United Nations were to give the organization an order.

“The most dangerous possibility is that unrest in Syria degrades the state’s capability to maintain security to the point where not all the chemical weapons stockpiles are secure,” Ayham Kamel, the Middle East analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group, said, according to Reuters. “The nightmare scenario is that they fall into the hands of al Qaeda. Syria could try to break the regional balance of power by supplying Hizbollah with an arsenal that could threaten Western interests.”

Fears of stockpiles being obtained by Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas or the Taliban prompted Israel to provide $20 million in governmental support to a gas mask factory to secure production until the end of 2012. Approximately 60 percent of Israelis were supplied with protective gear before the factory nearly closed due to financial issues.

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