Assad Regime Reported Firing SCUDS Against Syrian Opposition
SCUD C Mobile Missiles
Last weekend, we reported on Russian shipments of hypervelocity Iskander (SS-26) short range ballistic missiles to the Assad regime in Syria The New York Times and Reutersreported Wednesday that the Assad regime may have fired several North Korean designed SCUDS, the Hwasong-6, equipped with an 860 kg. warhead (approximately 1,800 lbs.) at opposition targets in Northern Syria. The Hwasong-6, Shahab-2 in Iran’s missile inventory, has a range of 430 miles capable of threatening Israel.
In our NER article on “The Iranian Missile Threat”, Israeli missile defense expert, Uzi Rubin was quoted about the vast quantity of SCUDS in the Syrian weapons inventory:
Syria has a very vast missile capability and stockpile. Actually, they started stockpiling missiles even before Iran. In 1982 they made it a Syrian national defense priority and made a decision to forego air power and build up the missile power against Israel. By now they have hundreds of SCUDS with ranges up to 700 kilometers – some of them equipped with chemical warheads – all operational, ready for use, well-established in survivable bases in mountains tunnels.
The Hwasong-6, Shajab-2 in Iran’s inventory, has a range of 430 miles capable of threatening Israel. Experts cited in the Reuters report noted:
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Scuds had been used.
In Brussels, a NATO official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said a number of "SCUD-type" short-range ballistic missiles had been launched inside Syria in recent days.
"Allied intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets have detected the launch of a number of unguided, short-range ballistic missiles inside Syria this week," the official said.
"Trajectory and distance travelled indicate they were SCUD -type missiles," the NATO official said.
Thomas Houlahan, a military analyst at the Center for Security and Science, said the weapons were probably North Korean-made Hwasong-6 missiles, an improved variant of the original Soviet SCUDS.
"In terms of the short-range battlefield missiles, they produce a pretty good missile and because of North Korea's constant need for hard currency, they sell them pretty cheap. So they have moved a lot of missiles around and Syria has ended up with a lot of them," Houlahan said.
These fast paced developments have drawn criticism of the Assad regime by the Obama White House and the deployment of NATO Patriot batteries in Turkey. White House spokesman Jay Carney in response to these revelations of Syrian Scud attacks said:
"If true, this would be the latest desperate act from a regime that has shown utter disregard for innocent life," he said. "The idea that the Syrian regime would launch missiles in its borders at its own people is stunning, desperate, a completely disproportionate military escalation."
South Korea was reported in mid-November to have confiscated North Korean missile parts destined for Syria. In our report on the Russian Iskander missiles deployed to Syria we noted that the warheads have multiple capabilities including CBW.
The use of CBW equipped warheads is concerning to both Washington and Jerusalem. The Sunday London Times reported that Israel has dispatched Sayeret Commando units to track stocks of chemical and biological weapons inside Syria. An Algemeiner article on these Israeli covert operations noted the comments of Dr. Jill Bellamy - Van Aalst, whose interview on the Syrian bio-warfare threat we published in the NER in 2007:
“For years we’ve known the exact location of Syria’s chemical and biological munitions,” an Israeli source said, according to The Sunday London Times. “But in the past week we’ve got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations.”
Several world leaders have warned Syria in recent days that the use of biological and chemical weapons would be a red line and would prompt a military response from the international community.
Syria has designated biological weapons as part of its conventional arsenal, suggesting it wouldn’t hesitate to use them against its citizens or any other entity it deems a threat.
According to the Sunday London Times article, Jill Bellamy-van Aalst, a former bio-defense consultant to NATO, said: “It’s just another type of weapon for the regime and they may not make the moral distinctions we do.”
On Saturday Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told the UN that no chemical weapons would be used by the government but that “terrorist groups may resort to using chemical weapons against the Syrian people… after having gained control of a toxic chlorine factory” east of Aleppo.
As the Assad regime needs to counter Syrian opposition MANPAD threats to military aircraft, we can expect more reports of SCUD firings, perhaps even ones equipped with chemical and biological warheads. We should not be surprised at this development. You may recall that Israel was attacked by 39 Iraqi SCUDS, some reportedly equipped with chemical warheads, that produced damage but few casualties during the First Gulf War in 1991. Those SCUD attacks by Saddam Hussein's forces led to the deployment of the first Patriot batteries in the region.