Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton has reiterated U.S. concerns that Syria is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). During a Sept. 16 hearing before the House International Relations Committee, Bolton repeated charges that Syria is developing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, but his testimony provided no new information. (See ACT, May 2003.)
Bolton accused Damascus of possessing “one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities” and “continuing to develop an offensive biological weapons capability.” He also warned that Syria’s nuclear research and development program, as well as its civil nuclear cooperation with Russia, could enable a nuclear weapons program. Syria is not known to have produced biological weapons agents, and the Pentagon stated in 2001 that Syria is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Under international law, Damascus is not prohibited from possessing chemical weapons because it is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
During his testimony, Bolton reiterated other U.S. concerns about Syria’s behavior, including the fear that Damascus could transfer WMD to terrorist organizations although he added that “[t]here is currently no information” that Syria has done so or “would permit such groups to acquire them.” Bolton also acknowledged that he could not confirm reports that Iraq had transferred prohibited weapons to Syria.
Bolton said Washington “will stress peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the proliferation threat,” but added that states seeking WMD “must see and feel the logic of adverse consequences.” He said Washington needs to have the option to employ “every tool in our nonproliferation toolbox,” which he said includes economic sanctions and interdiction of WMD materials.