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Syrian chemical weapons expert ‘was on CIA payroll for 14 years’

Central Intelligence Agency (Central Intelligence Agency/Flickr)

One of Syria’s top chemical weapons scientists worked for the CIA for 14 years, passing on details of the country’s secret program to develop deadly weapons such as sarin gas, according to a new book.

Dubbed “the chemist” by the CIA, he worked undercover from 1988 until 2001 — until an unfortunate twist of fate saw him executed by the regime. The story was revealed by Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick in his book “Red Line.”

It explains that “the chemist” was recruited by the CIA after offering his services while at a conference in Europe. Months later, he was approached and recruited in Damascus by a CIA officer.

The book details how he went on to reveal the location of a top-secret chemical weapons lab in Damascus — Institute 3,000 — and had reported details of the Syrian plan to mount lethal chemical weapons on missile-ready warheads.

After 14 years spying for the CIA, however, “the chemist” met with a grim end. A senior Syrian intelligence officer told him he had been betrayed. Assuming this meant his role as a CIA spy had been revealed, he confessed and was executed by firing squad.

According to Warrick, “the chemist” had only been brought into questioning for an allegation of corruption in his running of Institute 3,000’s chemical weapons program.

The book’s name is a reference to former US President Barack Obama’s 2012 promise of military retaliation against the Assad regime if it used chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. Obama claimed at the time that the use of such weapons was a “red line.”

Despite this, Syrian regime forces went on to kill hundreds of civilians in the infamous chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August 2013.

The US chose not to respond, and according to the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute, the regime went on to use chemical weapons at least 300 more times over the course of the war.

Earlier in February, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and said those responsible should be held to account.

“Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity,” said Izumi Nakamitsu.

“It is imperative that (the UN Security Council) shows leadership in demonstrating that impunity in the use of these weapons will not be tolerated.”


(c) 2021 the Arab News

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