Israel’s chemical weapons under the spotlight

While Bashar Assad is busy gassing Syrians, a nearby rogue state, Israel, has been busy accumulating all sorts of chemical weapons, besides its massive nuclear arsenal.

In an exclusive article published in Foreign Policy, Matthew M. Aid says a newly discovered secret CIA document reveals that United States spy satellites uncovered in 1982 “a probable CW [chemical weapon] nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert. Other CW production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry.”

The CIA document adds: “While we cannot confirm whether the Israelis possess lethal chemical agents, several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and non-persistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, marched with suitable delivery systems.”

According to Aid,

The persistent nerve agent referred to in the document is not known, but the non-persistent nerve agent in question was almost certainly sarin. That is believed to be the Assad regime’s chemical weapon of choice – and the agent used on the morning of August 21, 2013 to strike rebel-controlled or contested neighborhoods in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. The Obama administration says that attack killed over 1,400 innocent civilians, mostly women and children. On Sunday [8 September] , the Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, blasted Assad for “crudely us[ing] chemical weapons against his own citizens”.

The document, according to Aid, “also shows that the US intelligence community had suspicions about this stockpile for decades, and that the US government kept mum about Israel’s suspected possession of chemical weapons just as long”.

He continues:

At my request, a friend of mine who retired years ago from the US intelligence community began systematically scanning the available cache of commercial satellite imagery found on the Google Maps website, looking for the mysterious and elusive Israeli nerve agent production facility and weapons storage bunker complex near the city of Dimona where Israel stores its stockpile of chemical weapons.

It took a little while, but the imagery search found what I believe is the location of the Israeli nerve agent production facility and its associated chemical weapons storage area in a desolate and virtually uninhabited area of the Negev Desert just east of the village of al-Kilab, which is only 10 miles west of the outskirts of the city of Dimona. The satellite imagery shows that the heavily protected weapons storage area at al-Kilab currently consists of almost 50 buried bunkers surrounded by a double barbed-wire-topped fence and facilities for a large permanent security force. I believe this extensive bunker complex is the location of what the 1983 CIA intelligence estimate referred to as the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area.

If you drive two miles to the northeast past the weapons storage area, the satellite imagery shows that you run into another heavily guarded complex of about 40 or 50 acres. Surrounded again by a double chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, the complex appears to consist of an administrative and support area on the western side of facility. The eastern side of the base, which is surrounded by its own security fence, appears to consist of three large storage bunkers and a buried production and/or maintenance facility. Although not confirmed, the author believes that this may, in fact, be the location of the Israeli nerve agent production facility mentioned in the 1983 CIA report.

In 1992 the Israeli government signed but never ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans chemical arms. With the horrors unleashed by Assad’s gassing of his own people on 21 August fresh in our minds, the international community should take advantage of the momentum created by this criminal act and insist on putting Israel’s – and not just Syria’s – chemical arsenal beyond use, and earnestly begin making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone.

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