Russian Media Seize On Israeli Report To Suggest Some Chemical Stocks Under Insurgent Control


Russia’s Interfax news agency on Tuesday has seized on a new academic report by the Israeli International Institute for Counter-Terrorism — an academic department that is part of the Interdisciplinary Center in Hertzliya — to run with this scary headline: Сирийскиеповстанцынекотороевремяконтролировалинеменеедвухобъектовпохранениюхиморужия (“Syrian Rebels Controlled At Least Two Chemical Weapons For Some Time”)

It is notable that Interfax does not question that Assad holds chemical weapons stocks — a move that is in line with statements from Russian officials — but centers its reporting on whether the Syrian Arab Army may have lost control of two of those facilities, at least for a while, to Islamist insurgent factions.

Interfax writes:

At the start of the internal conflict [Syria’s chemical weapons] were concentrated in around 10 bases.

According to experts from ICT, the Syrian authorities control the chemical weapons, however there is no full understanding of the fate of those bases linked to chemical weapons in at least two cities, the control of which passed to the rebels for at least some time.

They note that one of these facilities near Aleppo — whose identity is not specified — was in an area that in August 2012 was controlled by the group Jabhat al Nusra, which is close to Al Qaeda

Interfax’s reporting reflects Russian concerns over the insurgency, particularly over Islamist groups, which, Moscow fears, could spill over into its own internal conflict in the Caucasus.

For its part, the ICT academic report reflects concerns among some in Israel that there could be”a real and immediate threat” that chemical weapons, agents or precursors could fall into the hands of terror groups. It cites multiple scenarios in which Assad could intentionally transfer or lose control of the Syria’s stockpiles of gas, nerve and blistering agents.