The roots of Syria's chemical weapons program lie decades in the past, perhaps back to the 1970s. Other countries were early suppliers. What's uncertain now is if Syria can make its own chemical weapons.
Where did Syria get chemical weapons? How big is its stockpile? Those questions are more crucial than ever in the wake of reports that the US now believes President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime has used the chemical agent sarin against civilians on a small scale.
After all, Syria remains one of only six countries that have not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws production, storage, and use of poison gas. In 2012, Syrian officials acknowledged that they possessed such weapons and threatened to use them in the event of “foreign intervention” in Syria's ongoing conflict with domestic opposition forces.
Overall, Syria is believed to have “hundreds of tons of mustard gas, blister agents, and nerve agents, which could include sarin and the agent VX,” concludes an Arms Control Association summary of Syria’s unconventional weaponry.
The roots of Syria’s chemical weapons program lie decades in the past. Over the years, US intelligence experts have gone back and forth as to exactly when the effort began, but it is likely Syria began the effort decades ago, and possibly as early as the 1970s.
“Damascus probably developed its chemical weapons program in response to a perceived threat from Israel,” concludes a 2012 Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysis of the subject, citing US intelligence reports.