The ongoing conflict in Syria is remarkable on several levels, not least of which because it is the first civil war in history to occur in a WMD-armed state. Syria is believed to possess one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical weapons programs in the world.
Typically divided into seven categorical agent types, Syria is widely believed to possess blistering agents (mustard sulfur) and nerve agents—specifically sarin and VX (the latter is the most toxic chemical agent). Syria is one of the few countries that is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (an agreement which outlaws the production, possession and use of chemical weapons).
For the past year, concerns were voiced that terrorist organizations or other violent non-state actors could acquire these deadly agents in the event of state collapse. The Assad regime is accused of used sarin against opposition forces on three separate occasions, with the most recent incident on August 21, 2013 in which a chemical weapon attack in Damascus killed 1,429 people.
August 29, 2013: The Hill, “Syria’s Age-Old Question”
August 26, 2013: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “The Chemical Weapons Of Syria”
July 22, 2013: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Lessons Unlearned”
April 30, 2013: CNN-Global Public Square, “U.S. Kicks Syria Chemical Weapons Can Down The Road”
March 26, 2013: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “The Thin Red Line”
December 6, 2012: Foreign Policy, “Why Assad Won’t Use His Chemical Weapons”
March 1, 2012: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Fearful of a Nuclear Iran? The Real WMD Nightmare is Syria”