Syria has shifted the focus of its military industry from Israel to the internal insurgency, President Bashar Assad told a Lebanese daily in a lengthy interview Monday. He also dubbed the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas “treacherous” for its anti-regime stance.
Speaking to the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, a newspaper close to Hezbollah and sympathetic to his government, Assad said Syria’s advanced missile capabilities were sufficient to deter Israel militarily and therefore he did not need the chemical stockpile. In fact, he said, Syria stopped manufacturing chemical weapons back in 1997, replacing them with conventional missiles “which are the determining factor on the ground.”
“It is enough to control Israel’s airports with firepower in order to paralyze it,” Assad said. Easily treatable medically, chemical weapons had more of a psychological effect on Israelis than a physical one, he added.
The UN has tasked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to rid Syria of its stockpile by mid-2014. Twenty-seven OPCW inspectors are currently in Syria on mission to inspect over 20 suspected chemical weapons sites across the country.