What Deterrent Does Syria Possess?

If Assad is telling the truth, it can only mean that he is claiming that he is in possession of a nuke.

possess-syriaEmbattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accepted United Nations Security Council demands to remove his country’s chemical weapons, and has claimed that the only reason he has not done so himself is because “their destruction costs a great deal of money and could take years to destroy.”

However, despite these overtures it should not be forgotten that Assad has also claimed that he is in possession of “deterrent weapons that are more important and more sophisticated than chemical weapons” created as a deterrent against Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal.

If Assad is telling the truth, it can only mean that he is claiming that he is in possession of a nuke.

It is not such a crazy idea: Syria has long-held nuclear ambitions. In 2007, an Israeli airstrike dubbed “Operation Orchard” eliminated a Syrian nuclear reactor.

Since this also destroyed Syrian aspirations for a domestically manufactured nuclear weapon, any such device would have been procured elsewhere.

While the nuclear rogue states of Pakistan and North Korea also possess nuclear weapons, the only real candidate is Russia. The same Russia who quickly suggested disarming one of its only remaining allies in the Middle East when President Obama threatened military force.

The same Russia that has maintained a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus since 1971. Could there be ulterior motives for Moscow’s posturing?

Russia has a history of aiding Syria in wars against Israel, including with direct Russian military involvement. Additionally, Russia has also provided Syria with advanced weapons and armaments for decades, including chemical weapons.

Were it to be found out that Russia also provided Syria with nuclear materials, or a fully operational nuclear weapon, Moscow would likely be held responsible for the actions taken by the Assad regime. With all this at stake, how much could Russia have gambled to maintain a crucial ally, as well as the last vestige of its empire?

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While there is currently no evidence of a nuclear device in Syria – Russian made or otherwise – Assad’s claims that he has “more sophisticated weapons” is dangerous.

Let us not forget that his is a regime that has been prepared to do whatever it takes to remain in power, for their defeat will surely mean their deaths. Possession of a nuke would ensure that his regime could never be ousted from power.

Robby Dunn-Bernstein has a Masters in Homeland Security from the IDC – Herzliya, and is a Security Researcher and Analyst in Washington, DC.