Iran was crucial in helping Syria develop its chemical weapons program, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote Monday. “What the rapid-fire news cycle didn’t say early this month was that Tehran and Damascus jump-started a program to develop a sophisticated Syrian chemicals arsenal as early as 2004,” Benjamin Weinthal observed.
The British publication Jane’s Weekly noted in 2005 that Iran was constructing equipment to produce “hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin and mustard.” A Jane’s report in 2007 determined that “Iran’s regime and its strategic partner the Assad regime accidentally caused an explosion while attempting to load a chemical warhead onto a Scud-C missile. It killed dozens of Syrian military personnel and Iranian engineers.”
The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a sarin gas attack earlier this month on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, killing 87 civilians. In August 2013, the regime also used sarin in the suburbs of the capital Damascus, killing 1,429 people, including 426 children.
In the aftermath of this month’s attack, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base, from which the regime’s assault had been launched. As Weinthal noted, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were present at Shayrat.
“Contrary to Iran’s assertions that it abhors chemical weapons – and would never use nerve agents – growing evidence shows Tehran’s deep involvement in Assad’s nerve agent technology and role in this month’s attack in Khan Sheikhoun,” Weinthal concluded.