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The danger of weapons proliferation in the Middle East

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 26 July 2012

The increasing likelihood of a collapse of the Syrian regime of President Assad has led other nations to make contingency plans to prevent his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

There are reports that the stockpiles, and the manufacturing hubs that produced them, have been under intense surveillance for months by Russian and NATO intelligence agencies.

One particularly troubling report claims that several weeks ago President Assad authorised the deployment of these weapons against the Syrian forces fighting his regime, but was advised against such action by the Russian government.


If this is correct, it is a relief that Assad backed away from using these terrible weapons.

However for the first time a regime spokesman has confirmed the existence of the stockpiles, claiming that while the weapons will not be deployed against the Syrian people, he could not rule out using them against any foreign forces.

Given that Assad has claimed repeatedly that terrorist groups are seeking to overthrow his government, it is not difficult to see the regime using alleged foreign support as a pretext for future use of these weapons.

The Israeli military is reportedly watching traffic from Syria to Lebanon for any evidence of weapons being transported to the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah.

Some of the chemical and biological weapons dumps are apparently within 2 hours drive of the border with Lebanon.

Israel has indicated it will take military action to prevent such weapons being transported into the hands of extremists.


The global community is also rightly expressing alarm over reports of al Qaeda operating within Syria and actively seeking to gain control of these weapons.

There is little doubt that Russia, the United States and other countries will make contingency plans for safeguarding these stockpiles in the event that the Assad regime is no longer able to do so.

However this may prove challenging if there is a chaotic collapse of the Assad regime rather than an orderly transition of power.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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