Raid leaves chemical sites ‘intact’
MIDDLE EAST: Western air strikes have done little to degrade Bashar al-Assad’s chemical arsenal and his regime still has the capability to inflict major damage, Syria’s former chemical weapons chief has said.
Brigadier-General Zaher alSakat, who served as head of chemical warfare in the powerful 5th Division of the military until he defected in 2013, said the most strategic sites were not hit in Saturday’s strikes.
In the United States, the Pentagon had said that it believed the raids ‘‘attacked the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons programme’’, significantly hampering the government’s ability to use such weapons again.
But the extent of the damage was questioned yesterday by Sakat, as well as other defectors from Syria’s secretive chemical weapons programme, and chemical experts.
‘‘Taqsis depot [in the central province of Homs] is what we wanted to be hit,’’ Sakat said.
‘‘As long as it’s still functioning then they’ll still have chemical weapons and the ability to produce more.’’
The 54-year-old left the army and joined the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) after he was ordered to carry out a number of chemical attacks on civilians.
The targets of the American, British and French strikes included Barzeh Scientific Research Centre in the greater Damascus area, as well as a chemical weapons storage facility near the city of Homs. Satellite imagery released yesterday showed significant damage to Barzeh.
It is one of the three main chemical research centres, alongside Dummar and Masyaf, the latter of which is thought to specialise in the integration of chemical payloads on to missiles.
‘‘There’s no actual production in Barzeh and they would have moved everything before the strikes anyway,’’ Sakat said.
– Telegraph Group