Sept. 11, 2013— -- The arsenal of chemical weapons that Syria says it is now willing to surrender is described as "particularly massive and diversified" and Syrian scientists have been working on a new agent that is even more lethal than sarin, according to a declassified intelligence document posted by the French Defense Ministry.
Complicating any attempt to destroy the arsenal is Syria's ability to "deliver its chemical weapons through a vast range of several thousand launchers" that include a battery of missiles, in addition to artillery shells and bombs dropped by planes.
The document posted on the French government's web site states that Syria began building its chemical weapons in the 1970s.
"Syria has long been equipped with a massive chemical arsenal, together with many related delivery systems," the report states.
In detailing the weapons being held by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the French intel also states that it is "diversified" and includes:
- "Several hundreds of tons of sulfur mustard, stockpiled in its final form,
- "Several tens of tons of VX. VX is the most toxic among the known chemical warfare agents,
- "Several hundreds of tons of sarin, representing the bulk of the arsenal."
Sarin essentially paralyzes and suffocates its victims. Sulfur mustard, better known as mustard gas, penetrates even clothes to create blisters and burns on the skin, and when it is inhaled creates blisters on the lungs and damages membranes. VX is a nerve gas that paralyzes the diaphragm, suffocating the victim.
In an ominous note, the report states that "Syrian scientists have also worked on nitrogen mustard, a first generation vesicant agent, as well as neurotoxic organophosphorus compounds with toxicity level higher than sarin."